‘I was thoroughly trained in every point of our ancestral law. I have always been ardent in God’s service…I began to persecute this movement (the Christians) to the death, arresting its followers, men and women alike, and putting them in chains. For this I have as witnesses the High Priest and the whole Council of Elders.
I was given letters from them (the High Priest and the Council of Elders) to our fellow-Jews at Damascus, and had started out to bring the Christians there to Jerusalem as prisoners for punishment.’ (Acts Ch. 22)
‘My life from my youth up, the life that I led from the beginning among my people and in Jerusalem, is familiar to all Jews.
Indeed they have known me long enough and could testify, if only they would, that I belonged to the strictest group in our religion: I lived as a Pharisee…I myself once thought it my duty to work actively against the name of Jesus of Nazareth; and I did so in Jerusalem.
It was I who imprisoned many of God’s people by authority obtained from the chief priests; and when they were condemned to death, my vote was cast against them.
In all the synagogues I tried by repeated punishment to make them renounce their faith; indeed my fury rose to such a pitch that I extended my persecution to foreign cities. On one such occasion I was travelling to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests.’
(Acts Ch. 26)
It can be ascertained here, Paul was no novice clerk, a junior member or at best a young worker. The description is of an experienced and high ranking official of significant importance, power and authority.
He knew the High Priest well enough and to use him as a reference for future substantiation of his earlier role as persecutor of the Church. The High Priest not only gave him arrest warrants to extradite Christians but could act as a witness to say he knew Paul personally.
To give someone arrest warrants means that you trust them, have faith in them and above all you know what they are doing.
The whole Council of Elders also knew him very well and could also act as witnesses to his actions, his role and his opinions which further tells us he was not a young man at the time and had been a member for a very long time.
The chief priests also knew him personally and gave him authority and commission to imprison Christians, this shows he was a major personality who wielded enormous power and was very well known.
Paul makes a bold statement when he says all Jews knew his life from his youth onwards which also clarifies and substantiates the claim he was not a young and low key member of the Jews, but a well known individual.
For all Jews, which include those from different cities, even in foreign places, to know him meant he was clearly someone of a high office, prestige and title. For all Jews to know him meant his name, image and position was above that of a local or even a national priest but a multi national personage.
Luke makes him out to be a youth who had nothing to do with the stoning of Stephen, a disciple of the disciples, the word used to describe Paul during Stephen’s trial is ‘adolescent youth’.
Yet within a short time, he is powerful enough to be known to everyone with considerable authority and is responsible for orchestrating, not just participating in, but initiating expeditions to kill, imprison and arrest Christians.
Paul used torture to make Christians recant their faith in Christianity, condemned them to die in votes cast by assemblies to decide their fate and travelled to foreign cities to arrest them several times.
His authority did not stem from charismatic oratory, personal vengeance or hostility but from Roman rule who administered Israel through their puppet, the High Priest, under whom Paul obtained his letters in the first place.
“It (the Torah) was a temporary measure pending the arrival of the issue to whom the promise was made. It was promulgated through angels, and there was an intermediary; but an intermediary is not needed for one party acting alone, and God is one.”
(Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3: 19-20)
Paul is saying the Torah or Mosaic Law was of a limited lifeline, of diminished importance and a lesser divine message in comparison to whom or what is to come. That person being Jesus.
More importantly, Paul is also saying it was not God who wrote the Torah, but the angels. The actual Greek word ‘diatageis’, is incorrectly translated and does not mean promulgated, but ‘ordained’, hence Paul is ascribing authorship of a divine source to the angels and not God.
Paul is likely to have taken this from Gnostic literature which said the Torah was inferior. The ‘intermediary’ Paul spoke of above nonetheless, was Moses to whom the Torah was revealed, however, now no intermediary is needed.
Paul’s Style of Preaching
“Although I am free from everyone, I have enslaved myself to all of them in order to win a large number. To the Jews I behave as a Jew to win Jews; to those under the Law as one who is under the Law, although I am not under the Law, to gain those who are under the Law.
To those who are without law I am as without law, although not lawless toward God but committed to Christ’s Law, in order to win those who are without law.”
(Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 9: 19)