Reassessing the Historical Paul

Temiloluwa Adeniyi-Ipadeola
3 min readNov 16, 2020

This is an informative study on the Paul of history and his zealousness in Judaism as he is actively pursuing and persecuting the arising Christ-followers movement as a result of the death and resurrection of their leader, Jesus Christ. Next is the effects of Paul’s conversion by his own testimony in his letter in Galatians and Luke’s second letter in Acts. According to Acts 22:3, Paul has in Luke’s letter, given a short autobiography in a defense of his Apostleship in the nascent Christian movement before the public Jews. Concluding with the similarity and difference between the historical Paul and the Christian Paul as he is now understood.

The historical Paul was a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia, studied under Gamaliel who was a master of the Jewish Oral Law and a very respected leader among the Elders of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court. (also mentioned in Acts 5:34) In Paul’s defense in acts 22:3, he mentions in keeping with his religion in Judaism, his Zeal in Judaism was unmatched. So much so that he Persecuted “the followers of this Way to their death”. Here is the first instance of the difference between Judaism and the Early Christian movement. There was such a difference between orthodox Judaism and Christianity that Christians were being imprisoned and stoned to death by Jews with the approval of Pharisees which Paul was and other leaders who gave letters of approval to “persecute the church” as Paul later says 1 Corinthians 15:9. The official leader of Judaism sought to put an end to Christianity this gives early evidence that the first-century church had such a strong difference in theology(The study and belief in God) that it produced violence and hate toward the early Christian movement of which Paul was gladly an instrument of violence and Chaos.

As a result of the violence and hate Judaism had towards the Christian movement it would be more accurate to call the Emergence of Christianity as a splinter of the religion out of Judaism. Rather than a branching of Judaism The historical Paul in his letter seem to have this view. For example, in Galatians 4:10 and Roman 14:5, Paul doesn’t seem to regard the sabbath observance as he had before his conversion to the Jesus movement(Acts 9, Galatians 2). Paul’s apostleship in Romans reveals a stark and clear difference between classical Judaism and the new Jesus Movement. In Romans 7, He teaches on the release from the law for Christian. Pre-conversion Paul’s convection was a legal submission to the law. Most important of all differences and perhaps the ultimate splinter point of Paul’s view from Judaism to Christianity is on Salvation. In Galatians 2:15–21, The Historical Paul makes a break out of Judaism to the Christian Movement. No orthodox Jew would say what he said in Galatians. Stephen In Acts 7 was stoned for saying less. Is the Historical Paul still a Pharisaic Jew in Judaism?

A good deal of evidence in the primary sources indicates Paul moved away from his previous practices of Judaism that are known to be orthodoxy Judaism to something new. If indeed historians today would consider Paul as an ethnic Jew as well as a religious Jew. How much diversions from the orthodox principles and teaching of Jewish religiosity must be considered too much to not be in orthodox Judaism. If Paul was a non-christian Jew in Judaism then it can’t be possibly intelligent to think the letters attributed and known to be Paul’s writings to Christian churches in the cities across the Roman Empire actually have anything to do with Paul. Therefore why read letters that a Jewish pharisee never wrote. However, if he did write them the contents in them show he can no longer be a zealous Jew, Pharisee, or even an orthodox Jew. He has become a new creature, a Jesus follower.