Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 14)

Saint PaulWe continue with questions from people who believe Paul was a fraud and not a true apostle of Jesus Christ. What’s at stake is almost half of the New Testament.

Question

  • If eating meat sacrificed to idols is okay as long as your “weaker brother” is not around as described in 1st Corinthians 8, then why is this practice later described as being hated by Jesus as the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14? Why does Rev 2:20 condemn it when Paul says it’s okay if nobody knows about it?

Answer

Let’s look at each reference you mentioned.

“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Paul wrote about idolatry earlier to the Corinthians and made it clear that when he said they should not keep company with idolaters he was talking about fellow believers. He also explained why.

“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?” 1 Corinthians 5:9-12

Paul also told the Corinthians that they should not take legal action against each other because they would be placing themselves into the judgment of idolaters.

“Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:7-11

It’s important to see Paul’s position on idolatry prior to what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 8. He does not approve of it. It’s not something a Christian should do. So, when he explains about “things offered to idols,” we know where he stands. Paul was not an idol worshipper, did not approve of Christians being idol worshippers or taking each other to court where they would be judged by idol worshippers. He also made it abundantly clear that idolaters would “not” inherit the Kingdom of God.

Paul said that the issue of idol worship had to do with “knowledge” attached. The fact is, Paul says, that an idol is nothing in the world. It’s just a carving, a stone, a piece of wood. There is only one God. However, there are some people who lack that knowledge. If they have knowledge that the food you’re eating was sacrificed to an idol and they see you eating it, even though you do not know that the food was sacrificed to an idol, they may think that eating food sacrificed to an idol is acceptable. When you have that knowledge concerning the food, your best choice is not to eat it – not because you are an idolater but because eating the food may cause your brother to stumble spiritually. What do you “know” and what does your brother “know” about the meat you are eating? That is the concern here, not that it’s okay for a Christian to worship idols.

Another issue is that “knowledge” often “puffs up,” while true “love edifies.” The difference is in puffing up and building up (edification). We may “know” that something is not wrong in and of itself, but loving others will cause us to not do what is not wrong for us so that we may build others up in the Christian faith.

God wants us to be concerned about edifying (oikodomei) others through love and be cautious about being puffed up (phusioi – blow up, inflate). Christians should ask themselves what’s the best thing they can do for others. In the case of eating meat offered to idols, the best thing was to do what was best for the weaker brother. “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” That is a true act of love with the result of edification.

Now to your question about what Jesus told John to write to the churches in Revelation. Let’s look at your references first. 

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.’ ‘And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: ‘I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last aremore than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Revelation 2:12-23

You referenced verses 14 and 20. Verse 14 is part of the letter to the church in Pergamos. Verse 20 is part of the letter to the church in Thyatira. Let’s see what each means in the context of what Jesus was saying to each church.

Pergamos (or Pergamum) was a wealthy city in Asia Minor overlooking the Caicus Valley more than a hundred miles north of Ephesus. The first temple dedicated to a Roman emperor was built in Pergamos in 29 BC. In addition to emperor worship, the people of Pergamos also worshiped the gods Zeus, Isis, Serapis, Asklepios, Persephone and Demeter. The location of “Satan’s throne,” as Jesus called it, may have been the large altar area in the Upper Acropolis.

Jesus also mentioned the “doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” Some in the church also held “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans,” which things Jesus said He hated. The Nicolaitans was a heretical group of people in the early church who taught and practiced immorality and idolatry, which included pagan feasts and orgies.

As we’ve already seen from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he stood in opposition to idolatry and told Christians to run from it and have nothing to do with it (“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:14). He also warned the churches in Galatia of the dangers of idolatry (Galatians 5:19-21).

Your reference in verse 20 is addressed to the church in Thyatira – “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” The false prophetess may have been named Jezebel, but the name was well known to Jews and Gentile students of the Septuagint as the wicked queen married to Israel’s King Ahab. Queen Jezebel was an idolater, as was the false prophetess in Thyatira. The church in Thyatira allowed the false prophetess to teach and seduce them to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols, which Jesus would not permit. He called on the church to repent of their sins or they would face His wrath.

What Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 8 and what Jesus said in Revelation 2 are not the same thing. Paul told the Corinthians not to eat food sacrificed to idols when they had knowledge of that fact for the purpose of edifying those who were weaker in their faith. Jesus warned the Thyatirans not to allow Jezebel to teach and seduce them into idolatry and immorality.

The messages of Paul and Jesus were the same concerning idolatry and immorality. That’s as it should have been given the fact that Jesus called Paul to minister to the Gentiles and Paul did what Jesus and the Holy Spirit told him to do in that ministry.

More questions and answers next time as we continue to investigate whether Paul was an apostle or a fraud.

 “Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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7 thoughts on “Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 14)

  1. Pingback: Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 15) | Faith and Self Defense

  2. Brawnson on said:

    It seems to me that God himself should define any text we hold to as authoritative. Prior to the writings of Moses, oral traditions ensured that each generation understood what God had spoken to mankind. Historical context and/or human insights were infused with these traditions, not to raise human insight or historical knowledge to a position of Godly infallibility, but to impart a context for God’s words. However, anyone providing a recounting of God’s words would have been careful to distinguish their own human ideas from the ideas imparted from God, unless they were claiming to speak prophetically. Of course, every prophetic statement would have been scrutinized by men of Godly reputation and not every utterance of a prophet was seen as synonymous with God’s voice.

    This does not mean that the human component has no credibility. It just means that what God clearly endorses and where God is most involved, limited human understanding or bias becomes less a factor.

    As for the Old Testament writings specifically, there is a trail that God’s authority provides (which has nothing to do with what a council of men might ratify later). Jesus actually provides a reference to this very thing in your earlier Matthew 5:17 reference by isolating the importance of the direct communication of the law between God and Moses. Jesus second reference is to those acknowledged communications made by the prophets that spoke of predictions that God had illuminated through them.

    Now it might be asked how one can be sure that all the Levitical laws can be guaranteed as coming from God, since the Levite priests were charged with many of these rituals and recorded teachings. I would say this is a good question, but of less concern to those not bound to the specific covenant between God and Israel. This is important in my view, as there is a distinct set of requirements laid out between God and the people of Israel specifically under covenant terms. That does not apply to gentiles as God made it clear he intended something specific for the descendents of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3 and Genesis 15 & 17)

    I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for suggesting that anyone who is not a Jew can feel free to forget about God’s words to Israel, as there is much to be understood about God in His own words. I am saying that God himself made it clear who his covenants applied to and how. Therefore we can it seems to me that there is a distinction between the covenants that God made with Noah for all mankind are different from covenants made with Moses for Israel.

    Before I move on to the New Testament, I’ll finish with my comments on The Old Testament by suggesting that God’s voice is clearest in his own words, followed by the clear prophesies of the prophets (David’s prophetic psalms included). Lower in authority and more open for debate are those writings and teachings that claim limited prophetic utterance, but hold valuable insight. Binding these latter words with more Godly utterances in a seamless collection should not automatically grant them equal status with God’s words. It should be noted that God never leads us to believe that any human possesses infallible knowledge, such that we no longer need to logically and critically examine their direction (even if they do end up in a Bible as an authority).

    Without assuming a line is supposed to be drawn in the sand where the New Testament begins, our bread crumbs of authority lead us to Jesus. Without assuming Jesus should automatically have this status, we can see that he was prophesied of by many, including and especially God. Thus Jesus himself serves to validate other people and other writings, both past, present and future (but only as authentic in specific writings or statements, as he also grants no man infallible status).

    Interestingly, Paul may have known he needed this validation, but he never crossed paths with Jesus. His Damascus testimony can not hold as a witness supported account (though it may be true, it is only a personal experience without an authoritative witness). This leaves us with Jesus being an authoritative voice in the New Testament and his disciples earning credibility via Jesus instruction to them directly.

    There is no remaining bread crumb, that one can connect with God’s voice, that suggests we should hold the remaining words in the New Testament as sacred, be those words of Paul or anyone else.

    I am not saying these other writings have no value or major insight. I am simply saying we are better served by looking at them with a higher level of scrutiny and critical evaluation, even questioning the way their ideas and words contrast with Jesus and the nature of God in The Old Testament. This critical eye seems vital to me, as their claim to authority has come to them more through gradual human consensus, religious councils, and affectionate references by Jesus disciples. These latter criteria may place Paul in good company and good standing, but it does not make him reliable as an infallible mouth piece of God’s words.

    Thanks again for letting me ramble.

    • You’re welcome! I’m enjoying our conversation. I agree that the most powerful communications in Scripture are those from the MOUTH of God (Thus says the Lord) and from those who performed the duty of speaking the WORDS of God (holy prophets). Who do you believe are the prophets in the Bible who spoke the WORDS of God? Which Books or portions of Books in the Bible are without question the WORD of God?

      Thanks!

      Mark

  3. Brawnson on said:

    Thanks for your response Mark. You raise some very interesting points and references… which churn up yet more questions and challenges from my perspective (grin). I don’t wish to sound resistant for its own sake, but I find myself working to ferrite out religious assumptions from the true revelations/declarations of God’s nature. In my view, nothing aside from God himself (and what he has clearly declared as authoritative), is sacred. That includes the ideas and written beliefs held among Christians and/or Jewish circles.

    You point to the hierarchy of the New Testament scripture. I appreciate that you see this, but it seems to me that there is a difference between how the Jews prioritize their sacred texts and how Christians do.

    In fact, if I am not mistaken, you seem to make a slight assumption about how Jesus validated the Old Testament in his words from Matthew 5:17-18 (and similarly in the other associated references). In the Matthew reference, Jesus is specific about who and how he validates authoritative text, as his reference in Matthew was specifically to the Law of Moses and the prophets that the Jewish community accepted. This is important because there was no “Old Testament” in Jesus day and his references spoke only to specific scrolls. It is also important since there are differences between what we consider the Old Testament today and what the Jews accept (both past and present) as sacred text.

    Be that as it may, Jesus applies a logical formula in what he states in your Matthew reference. Specifically, Jesus prioritizes what God says, from His own lips, to Moses as being supreme and above all other text. Closely connected, but second to this, are the utterances of the prophets (obviously positively witnessed to by other believers). This seems a logical way to validate what is true, as God’s authority is prioritized over the profits and both of these trump teachers of various insight.

    The above being said, it must also be realized that God had made a covenant with Israel that was (and is) distinct from God’s plan for us gentiles. Where is that line between the Law as given to Moses for all mankind and God’s covenant laws as planned for Israel? Answering that question would seem important to me, as many Christians claim the Law is now dead for those in Christ, but many still pull laws from the pages of Leviticus or Deuteronomy to claim God’s direction for all mankind on various issues (while at the same time denying various other laws, seen as not applicable.)

    Going back to your Matthew reference… Jesus does not define or validate what we currently call the Old Testament, let alone the texts of the entire Bible. Let me be clear that I am not trying to invalidate the Old Testament, but rather interpret how we wrestle with it as a series of texts with various levels of authority and, dare I say, righteous accuracy. My understanding is that these levels of authority provide a way to defend truth more completely, since conflict between two passages is solved when a writer of lower status can be declared wrong in the face of a writer with more authority, thus eliminating an inconsistency of truth.

    I raise all this to contrast it with the Christian understanding of the New Testament. It’s authority and hierarchy seems much more built around assuming all the writers are speaking for God in equal measure. Even were that not entirely the case for some believers, there is an assumption that the writers all essentially line up theologically and that God himself validated the collection of books contained in the New testament. I note that even in your delineation of New Testament hierarchy the breakdown assumes shows less of an actual hierarchy being defined and more of an effort to reflect the chronological placement of authors and events. You don’t seem to distinguishing the various authority levels of the voices of each author’s right to speak from a divine perspective. However, if we step away from assumptions simply having a hierarchy based on chronology doesn’t hold all that well.

    There was never a statement (implied or direct) that indicated the new Testament was to be compiled and held sacred. (Unlike how Jesus at least validates portions of the Torah). The finalized canon of the New testament was a man driven initiative (unless there exists a record of God’s direction on this that I am unaware of).

    The writing of The New Testament, on its face, provides evidence of a struggle in coming to grips with how gentiles relate in a relationship with God, who had traditionally communicated with Israel via His unique covenant with them. This struggle is never declared as resolved entirely in the New testament and the words of Jesus actually seem to fly in the face of some ideas raised later in the early church by Paul and others. (i.e. Jesus emphasis on the the righteous act vs. Paul’s emphasis on the futility of works and the law). This demonstrates theological discord that can’t support infallibility from every author.

    Lastly, if we grant (for the purpose of my argument) that the above assumptions are made in many Christian circles, then it is also assumed that Paul and Jesus are not in conflict in any of their teachings. However, when we remove that assumption and take away Paul’s assumed authority I believe a number of clashes come up when we really look at the two speakers messages. Paul was changing things in a way that even the followers of Jesus took issue with. Do we assume he was granted this authority? If not how do we authenticate his evolved position from the teachings of Jesus (who admittedly addressed a largely Jewish audience)? Does Paul get a pass because he is in the Bible (my answer is ‘no’)? Does Paul get a pass because he claims to have had a vision that his followers either didn’t see or hear, depending on which recount you go with (my answer is ‘no’)? Do we give him a pass because we feel other Godly men of his day seemed to approve of him when they weren’t disagreeing with him, even if God did not provide a lawfully witnessed validation of his authority (again, my answer is ‘no’)?

    Although i don’t think Paul needs to be rejected necessarily, I do believe that a method for following the chain of divine authority seems rather broken with Paul and how the New Testament (and the Bible as a whole) is granted a uniformly divine license by many Christians.

    I believe that God’s literal word is the only word (contrary to those who believe the Bible is the word). All other words (be they prophetic, be they Biblical teachings, be they Old Testament teachings etc.) must be placed in acknowledged subjection to His word. I am especially concerned that Paul (though he may be a good teacher in many ways) is not declared by God to be a perfect speaker of his word, such that we may not disagree with his understanding of the truth.

    Thank you for your patience with my lengthy tome.

  4. Brawnson on said:

    I find the problem with Paul is that Christians ascribe a Christ like
    infallibility to his statements. He seems to be granted this status because he
    wound up listed among texts that were later canonized by men (but not
    because God said his writings were beyond disagreement).

    Paul was also accepted as knowledgeable by some of the disciples, but not always
    agreed with. Never the less, it seems Paul’s associations grant him an
    uncritical consideration by many Christians. However, when you look at
    his testimony, he does not fit the criteria of a man that should be held
    up so uncritically. He claims to have had divine contact on the road to
    Damascus, while none of the men traveling with him heard the words Paul
    claimed to hear (or in contrasting accounts they could not see what he claimed to see). Based on these conflicting accounts, Paul lacks witness support at the site of this miraculous incident that was supposed to have validated his status with God. The only way his claim reaches for support is via a single profit that he meets long after the event in question.

    Although Paul may be sincere, his Damascus experience is not a set up for authenticating him as infallible in his teachings. Thus my position is that Paul should be considered as a man of true conviction, but not infallible in his
    teaching.

    If anything we should be willing to consider Paul as having the potential to be at odds with truth when some of his statements seem to require too much stretching to fit with teachings of Christ. For example, Christians do all kinds of verbal gymnastics to keep both Paul and James statements compatible when discussing works and grace. Maybe Paul it’s not so heretical to once relationship with God to suggest that Paul just doesn’t have it right. Maybe Christian traditions have simply
    turned the Bible into an idol of assumed infallibility rather than being willing to accept the human nature of many things written in it. Maybe we are really supposed to mine out of these writings the literal words of God and use some discernment when seeing the more human hands in the writing.

    • Brawnson on said:

      I challenge the infallibility of Paul above, but what about the book of Acts? Does it not validate Paul’s apostleship and is it not a valid book?

      I weigh Acts on its own merits (as I believe all the Biblical books should be). More specifically, I see Acts as a reasonably earnest effort, by Luke, to give an account of events that did unfold around the early church.

      That said, it is widely accepted that Luke was an admirer and follower of Paul’s and followed his teachings fairly closely. This is not necessarily a negative, but it does make it easier for Luke to side with Paul, despite some of the discord between Paul and the 12 disciples of Christ. Luke (through Acts) does seem to raise and later minimize conflict with the disciples. Although his tone suggests or imply these conflicts were resolved, that can’t be seen definitively. There are actually reasons to believe these rifts were never completely solved in fact.

      Peter, James, and the other apostles seemed concerned that Paul was minimizing the value of the law. Paul assured them that he was not and that he was merely attempting to avoid making knowledge of the law an obstacle to those who would join the faith. The disciples collectively seemed to agree on some minimum standards that new Christian gentiles should follow if Paul was to proceed, such as not drinking blood and staying sexually pure etc. However, it is unclear if these minimized standards were intended to be perpetual or simply a way to get people in the door of the faith initially. Later conflicts indicated that the disciples expected that Paul was going to bring people up to speed over time. Whatever the case, Paul left these meetings and proceeded with his teaching that the law is dead for those in Christ.

      It is interesting to me that James later writes that faith without works is dead, almost as though Paul may have been seen Paul as taking his liberties with the law (minimal law requirements discussed earlier), as granted by council with the disciples, too far.

      We also learn in the book of I Timothy (1:15) that Paul was rejected by the church in Asia. This is interesting since the book of Revelation (2:2) speaks approvingly of the Asian church’s rejection of a false prophet.

      It seems there may have been more tension between Paul and other early church founders than Luke emphasizes in the book of Acts (even though he does expose some of it, which he later seems to smooth over).

      What all this does to my perspective of Acts is cause me to recognize that it is a reasonably earnest account, written from the perspective of a supporter of Paul, who may not have wanted to demonize Paul’s ministry.

      Where this places Paul is not clear to me. One could argue that Paul’s divine purpose was to break from Jewish covenant law and show gentiles how faith in God must unfold for them, distinct from the Jews (since they were not bound to the Israelite covenant that God had made with the Jews).

      Alternately, Paul may have gone far off the rails and formed an understanding of truth that departed from Jesus teachings and those of the disciples, fashioning something that combined Greek philosophical thought with a selective understanding of Jewish teachings (palatable to gentiles, but less so to the Jews).

      In my view, these issues make Paul an enigma and not a hero or a villain of truth. Was he predestined by God as the one to introduce gentiles to the one real God, since that relationship had previously required a Jewish like embracing of God’s covenant law with the Israelites?… Or was Paul an intelligent philosophical fraud, who believed his own teachings, but caused many people to falsely believe that they no longer needed to examine God’s teachings to Moses?

      Is Paul responsible for most gentile people today no longer understanding the rational depths of the law, since the law was proclaimed dead, despite Jesus claim that he had come to fulfill the law and not abolish it? The answer to me is unclear, but what is clear is that the Bible (taken as a whole) does not provide a quick and easy answer.

      What about Luke being the writer of Acts? Is Acts Holy Spirit inspired or is it a human attempt on Luke’s part? Should it be included in the New Testament as Scripture or should Acts be moved to a category with other books about church history? These were questions raised by Mark McGee. Let me respond here…

      At this point I’ll go deeper into the rabbit hole. My questioning grows out of my experience as a child raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. I never came to doubt the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but I did come to ask myself just how many assumptions are made in accepting the box that Christianity has framed God in.

      Thus my question is this… Why do Christian’s assume that The Biblical definition of being “inspired by the Holy Spirit” comes with no hierarchy of authority to makes some writings subordinate to others? The Jews themselves read their own scriptures in this hierarchy, with texts having the highest authority being those quoting God directly. After these quotes from God comes words of prophesy (direct messages, like “Thus saith the Lord” type statements), which must be affirmed and witnessed by others of faith. Beneath these first two categories comes teachings of learned men of God.

      In contrast, most fundamentalist Christians simply call all scripture equal in divine standing and leave it at that. Could it be that Christians have reduced the complexity of these layers of authority in a way that God never intended and instead sought out an easier formula… one that allows them to rest on an assumption of uniform authority? Does this not diminish the incentive to “seek” the truth in the text, as it does not require one to wrestle for the actual heart of truth?

      To address the question of how inspired the book of Acts is more directly… What is a scripture that is inspired by the Holy Spirit? Even if we assume that Paul speaks for God himself (which is not self evident, as his authority to make pronouncements for God is what we are challenging), he states in II Timothy 3:16 that scripture is inspired by God and good for teaching and reproof. However, this was written before the Biblical canon and so could only be in reference to the the Jewish scriptures of that day.

      If what Paul said in II Timothy is true (as it applied at the time) and Jews themselves understand scripture in a hierarchy, the method of canonization that Christians rely upon comes into question. I say this because there was never a directive from God / Yeshua to canonize a Bible as we have it today.

      Many Christians will say that our current Bible simply reflects what the early church already used before the council of Nicaea. However, the truth is that the closest early church fragment (The Muratorian Fragment) has a sequence of books that is not the same as what we have today and it is not the same as what the Nicean council ratified. Thus it seems that Christians are granting supernatural assembling of scripture to a body of men in Nicea, while neither God nor his son spoke of this as being necessary.

      Why do we automatically assume they were to frame this for us and declare it infallible and divine? Why are they given the right to declare our Bible the inspired Word of God when the church before them had been more open to debating the content of scriptural authority?

      I won’t dig too far into this next point, but I am also unclear why references to text inspired by God is not more critically examined, if it is considered equal to God’s voice for mankind. Today we would never accept a man handing us a letter that he says is inspired by God himself, without critically considering the authenticity of that claim and the degree of Godly accuracy of the author. If that happened today we would likely be more measured in how we define what the word “inspired” means. Maybe the writer was simply pure of heart and writing with a fallible human understanding, so we take the divine parts and throw out the more human elements of the writers words?

      Does “inspired” mean that this theoretical writer’s words are to be taken as coming direct from God or would we still evaluated what he writes against a more clear Godly standard?

      Lastly, would we not ask ourselves what divine authority bears witness and grants this person the right to claim his letter is a direct communication from God? This is all the more important if the writer is suggesting what he holds is more than an earnest attempt to reflect what he feels God might be saying to him. Before we accept the hypothetical written text as being equal to God’s voice, we would typically ask all these questions of a letter today, but we assume these things when the words are bound in leather and called a Bible by the council of Nicea?

      With the above considered, I have no problem with Acts being in the Bible, but neither do I have a problem with recognizing that the Bible (as Christians have it) was never declared by God as inspired. The earnestness of the writers is not what I dispute, but our assumptions about the Christian culture around the Bible being divinely developed is what seems to be an error.

      The book of Acts, as I understand it, is like many other books in the Bible. It is a book written by a man with a hunger to share what he is witnessing, so that people can see what he sees and understand what he understands. However, that understanding is subject to human biases and fallibility, as all humans are. To say it is something supernatural and beyond doubt, requires a witness of divine authority that has made no such pronouncement over the book in question. The fact is that the church today seems to demand we simply believe they speak for God on designating this authority.

      However, God’s word’s, as he speaks them, can be the only true purveyor of truth and designator of authority. Unless that is shown in substance, it seems to me that we assume too much and make our own religion from it.

    • Brawnson on said:

      Mark McGee wrote:
      Good questions! Jesus spoke of the Hebrew Bible of His time as being the Word of God and authoritative (e.g. Luke 4: 1-12; 24:44-48). The Hebrew Bible as quoted by Jesus was a completed canon before He was born because He spoke about it in a completed fashion (e.g. Matthew 5:17-18).

      The Jews of Jesus’ day held both the Torah and the Neviim in high regard. The Ketuvim less so until the 2nd century AD. However, Jesus spoke of the entire Hebrew Bible as being complete and necessary.

      The early followers of Christ used the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible during the 1st century AD, but began to use the writings of the Apostles in teaching and worship. That is not surprising given the fact that the new disciples on Pentecost “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42).

      As for a New Testament hierarchy, the Gospels would be at the top of that list. Every other Book of the New Testament flows from the foundation of the Gospels. Acts would be next in line of the hierarchy as a continuation of and all that Jesus said would happen following His ascension to Heaven and the coming of the Spirit to give the Church power. The apostolic letters follow the Gospels and Acts in the hierarchy. As Paul wrote, “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Nothing Paul or the other apostles wrote is of any significance or importance if the central message of the Gospels is not true. Thus, a Christian hierarchy.

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