Unveiling Polycarp

A dialogue between Ibn Anwar and Polycarp

I am not quite sure who Mr. Polycarp is, but it does seem fairly certain that he is a Christian apologist. He first appeared on Unveiling-Chrisianity on the Trinity Challenge post where he simply posted a reference, that is,  Matthew 28:19 in answer to Ibn Sa’ad’s challenge to produce a single verse that teaches the Trinity in the Bible(s).  I in turn replied and directed him to an article I had written on Matthew 28:19. Thereafter, we had some very interesting exchanges that you may follow here.  On August 16, he also comented on another article. The article is on Paul written by my friend Sami Zaatari the Muslim apologist. Naturally, I responded and that led to some further exchanges until finally Polycarp relented and asked for time out so he could gather his sources and provide much more meaningful rebuttals. I had no objection to it and opined that maybe he could even produce a whole thesis on the subject to which he said, “maybe I will!”. The thesis isn’t forthcoming, but of course one understands that thesis’ are time consuming and take a while to complete. So, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and give him at least 2 years to finish it. Neverheless, he has returned and produced the following response which is his latest.

You may read our exchanges on Zaatari’s article on Paul here.

The following is Polycarp’s latest response,

Assalamu’alaikum,

Well I made it home, and so I look forward to continuing our dialogue as time permits on both ends. I’m going to start from scratch with regards to this post, since it has been about two weeks or so since we’ve dialogued about Paul’s visionary experiences listed in Acts. Now that I’m back home, I can actually give you quotes from sources and an actual dialogue that is idiosyncratic, rather than jotted down thoughts and ideas from memory.

The Oxford Guide to the Bible describes Paul’s Christian conversion as something that was not a disenthralling from Judaism, since he was clearly dedicated to a biblical faith (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:4b-6). Instead it was the “conversion experience that changed his life and played a major part in the development of his theology…he discovered that Jesus was no longer dead, but alive”(Metzger pg.578). Gerd Ludemann in “The Resurrection of Christ,” reinforces the idea that Paul had zealousness towards the law, as “evident…by his condemnation of their [Christians] proclamation of a crucified Messiah and… their [Christians] de facto disregard of the Torah”(Ludemann pg. 167). This of course raises the question again, what caused Paul to convert from his deeply rooted Jewish beliefs? Answering this question, Bart Erhman states in his book, “Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene,” that “there is little doubt, historically, about what converted Paul. He had a vision of Jesus raised from the dead” (Ehrman pg.111). Gerd Ludemann reverberates this by never denying Paul had a visionary experience of the risen Lord; rather, Gerd Ludemann likens it to a personal hallucination of the risen Christ. This idea can be seen in his debate with William Lane Craig, which is available in book form (Jesus’ Resurrection Fact or Figment?). He expounds on this notion a little more in his book “The Resurrection of Christ,” where he puts Paul’s vision in the same category as the Old Testament Prophets and affirms the hallucination theory by stating, “rather I adopt a psychological viewpoint in proposing the Paul experienced something that many people from his culture did…”(Ludemann pg.48). Continuing on, John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg in their book, “The First Paul,” describe Paul’s transformation of church persecutor to saint, as a “dramatic experience” Paul had with the risen Christ. They also point to the scholar, Peter Berger’s findings that, “Saul becomes Paul in a moment of religious ecstasy” (Borg pg.18).This of course is a reference to Paul’s visionary experience in Acts. The only explanation for Paul’s conversion is a dramatic experience such as this. As no credible scholar will deny that Paul was a pious Jewish Pharisee who was extremely devoted to the Torah and detested the new Jewish sect, Christianity. So whether the visionary experience was in fact a physical event or a hallucination, there is no denying that Paul experienced something arcane on the road to Damascus. If you continue to read the paragraph in Bart Ehrman’s book, “Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene,”you will find that he does not dismiss the visions themselves as not happening because of the differences in the narratives, like Sami Zataari does or as your history professors do. Rather he notes, “There are differences among these three accounts, making it difficult to know what, exactly, the author of Acts wants us to think happened. But the basic story line is similar” (Ehrman pg. 111). Borg and Crossan both echo Ehrman’s words that the primary details of the story are the same; Paul saw a light, he heard a voice and addressed it as Lord, the voice identified itself as Jesus, and the experience transformed him (Borg pg.22). This of course is what I have iterated once before, the differences in the secondary details do not necessarily throw something out. Granted, if you’re looking at it from a historical perspective, you may have to accept that some details did not occur or perhaps not in that order. This does not dismiss the event as not happening though. Bart Ehrman, in an email discussion I had with him, essentially agrees with what I just stated. The eyewitnesses maybe valuable as to what happened, but the eyewitnesses may not have recorded/remembered the events correctly and thus may not be accepted as getting it down to perfection. I fully accept that all three accounts may not be 100% historically accurate, as is the case in many of antiquities historical writings. However, the point is the main points do not sway, nor do they differ. At the very least, yours and Mr. Zataari’s conclusions are incorrect on this matter.

I do want to touch upon a point you brought up in regards to the beliefs of Marcus Borg. If you read his book “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time,” he sort of outlines his views on how to take the Bible. A Wikipedia article sort of summarizes this if you want to get the most basic idea of his view. But he takes a “metaphorical historical” view of the Bible, and on page 46 of this book; he gives a list of ideas that he considers to be symbolic in the relationship of God and man. If you notice, the events he labels as metaphoric, both in the New and Old Testaments, are all stories that would involve miracles. He further defines his criteria of knowing if something is metaphoric by what he calls, “limits of the spectacular.” In other words, if the event goes beyond what we think is possible, it falls into this category. With that being said Marcus Borg is one of the more “conservative” members of the Jesus Seminar, still more “liberal” then what I consider myself to be, which is seen on page 47 of his book, where he does paint a more open view towards miracles. He further states, that because no one else has performed miracles or these miracles, such as the virgin birth, multiplying loaves of bread, or turning water into wine, he cannot fully accept that Jesus did these miraculous actions, labeling these actions as “metaphorical narratives.” So despite that he is more “open” to miracles, he still goes into the text presupposing they did not occur. My view is similar to that of Dr. William Lane Craig’s which is, natural explanations should be what we turn to first, but if there are no natural explanations that can explain the “miracle” event without the explanation becoming ad hoc or outrageous, we may have to turn to a supernatural explanation. Even though it sounds like Marcus Borg’s belief, it isn’t. Borg doesn’t accept miracles from the get go, and won’t unless it can be historically certain the supernatural events occurred before.

1. Borg, Marcus J. Reading the Bible Again For the First Time Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002. Print.
2. Borg, Marcus J., and John D. Crossan. The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon. New York: Harper collins, 2009. Print.

3. Ehrman, Bart D. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene the followers of Jesus in history and legend. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.
4. Jesus’ resurrection fact or figment? : A Debate between William Lane Craig & Gerd Lüdemann. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 2000. Print
5. Ludemann, Gerd. The Resurrection Of Christ A Historical Inquiry. New York: Prometheus Books, 2004. Print.
6. Metzger, Bruce M., and Michael D. Coogan, eds. “Paul.” Oxford Guide to the Bible. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. 578. Print.

-End of Comment-

The following is my response.

Pax Vobiscum,
Well, I’m glad to hear that you’ve reached your home safely. I hope you had a pleasant journey back from wherever you were. Let’s get on to business, shall we?

I thank you for taking the time to share with us your thoughts. I must say that I enjoyed reading your latest response, but do not mistake that as concession or approval :p. You quoted three sources; Metzger, Ludemann and Borg to substantiate your proposition. That’s fine. But, let us recapitulate your initial comment on Zaatari’s article and see what exactly was it that you disagreed to which then prompted my reply.

You said in your first comment dated 16th of August,

“This is a common ploy among those who go on the offensive with the Bible. They point to varying accounts saying,”this indeed throws the story out, as there is conflicting reports of how the story is told, thus it did not happen!” This however is not how history is determined my dear friend.”

After that thesis statement you went on to talk about the Punic Wars and mentioned that there are discrepencies in the accounts given by the two sides involved i.e. Roman and Carthage. You did this in an attempt to illustrate that discrepencies in a story does not render it fictitious. The following is what you said,

“”I heard him tell the story two different times to various people with slightly varying details, as Pauls slightly varied…however the event still happened despite these varying details, as I myself witnessed it.”

Readers may refer to my reply to ascertain the rebuttal I gave to this false comparison utilised by Polycarp which he failed to counter-rebut in all his follow-up responses. You then made the claim that you’re a historian and further detailed that the conflicts in the narratives do not render the story moot and finally to substantiate your propositon further you cited Gerd Ludemann who is the professor of history and literature of early Christianity at Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany. You said about him,

“Even the highly critical New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann believes this vision to be something that really happened to Paul, as evident in the change of Paul’s beliefs ( he just takes a slightly different approach to it).”

Any ordinary person after having gone through your response may leave with the impression that Ludemann supports your initial proposition that historically, Paul certainly did meet Jesus on the road to Damascus despite the apparent discrepencies in the narratives in Acts. A critical evaluator however, would not be so gulliable and will for example notice that you have tried to conflate the words story, meet and vision together as if they are the same thing. Let us have a look at each word so as to get a better idea as to what we’re dealing with here.

Story,

1. a description of events and people that the writer or speaker has invented in order to entertain people.

2. an account, often spoken, of what happened to somebody or of how something happened.

Meet(in the context of our discussion I will only pick one definition that is most relevant),

5. to see and know somebody for the first time; to be inroduced to somebody: [vn] Where did you first meet your husband?

Vision,

2. [C] an idea or  picture in your imagination: He had a vision of a world in which there would be no wars.

(Taken from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

As you can see the three words are not the same at all. They have totally different meanings. You said in the first instance,

“This is a common ploy among those who go on the offensive with the Bible. They point to varying accounts saying,”this indeed throws the story out, as there is conflicting reports of how the story is told, thus it did not happen!” This however is not how history is determined my dear friend.”

The above and the rest of your response imply that the story is true and that Paul certainly did meet Jesus(which the article was out to disprove). Why have I bolded the ord meet? Well, I want to draw to your attention that you have not at all used it in your response, rather you opted for the word vision. Now, the article was written to disprove the alleged meeting of Paul and Jesus on the road to Damascus. Meeting implies physical, tangible and actual happening where two parties or more face each other. The word vision on the other hand at least in this context implies a metaphysical or supernatural phenomenon that is neither physical nor tangible. Zaatari’s article was not composed to disprove that Paul actually experienced some kind of vision himself, but rather to discard the narratives that are attributed to him by the anonymous author of Acts regarding an actual worldly meeting with Jesus on a road along with other human beings who accompanied Paul. To this effect I do not believe Ludemann actually postulates that Paul truly met Jesus physically along with the accompaniment on the road to Damascus. This would be truly ahistorical especially to the likes of Ludemann since in the first place Jesus had already died according to popular belief. To accede to an actual meeting on the road to Damascus which the other people experienced as well would be to allow resurrection which Ludemann and Ehrman and other historians staunchly deny. So what Ludemann said was that Paul probably had a vision and this changed his disposition. Nowhere in this admittance that you have provided for us in quotation form do we find him actually attesting to the veracity of the conflicting narratives in Acts. Rather, he has merely attested that Paul probably experienced a vision like how Sybill may have experinced “visions” that to her predicted the future. Paul may well have experienced a vision of Jesus(for the sake of argument), but that does not necessitate the authenticity of the conflicting reports in Acts. If Ludemann actually believed in the meeting aon the road to Damascus we would not find the following on his book Paul: The Founder of Christianity published in 2002,

“Based on a life-changing vision of the risen Christ, Paul’s belief in the resurrection of the crucified Jesus naturally became the centerpiece of his interpretation of this new religion. But Lüdemann contends that however sincerely motivated he was we must in the final analysis judge Paul’s belief as self-deception. Paul never knew Jesus, and he had only a passing acquaintance and a strained relationship with Jesus’ immediate disciples. As a result, he was not in a position to give an accurate representation of Jesus’ teachings.” (emphasis added)

As such in your latest response you testified that,

“Gerd Ludemann reverberates this by never denying Paul had a visionary experience of the risen Lord; rather, Gerd Ludemann likens it to a personal hallucination of the risen Christ. This idea can be seen in his debate with William Lane Craig, which is available in book form (Jesus’ Resurrection Fact or Figment?).”

You then quoted his own words,

““rather I adopt a psychological viewpoint in proposing the Paul experienced something that many people from his culture did…”(Ludemann pg.48)

Nowhere in what you have said regarding Ludemann or in the quotations from him do we see an affirmation that Paul and his company actually experienced something strange on the road to Damascus and that Paul himself did MEET Jesus there. Allow me to reiterate one more time that the purpose of Zaatari’s article was not to disprove that Paul had a personal vision of Jesus in a psychological state or something similar. Rather, the whole purpose was to show that the stories in Acts about an alleged meeting experienced by Paul and his company did not really take place. To this effect Zaatari concluded at the end of his article,

“So three contradictions and a logical fallacy, Paul lied, Acts is unreliable, the Bible is corrupt, the Quran said so, the Quran is true, come to Islam!” (emphasis added)

Let’s read the following again,

“I heard him tell the story two different times to various people with slightly varying details, as Pauls slightly varied…however the event still happened despite these varying details, as I myself witnessed it.”

In the above one can see that you tried to downplay the significant discrepencies that one can see in the said narratives. Before I detail the clear errors in the narratives let us remind ourselves that just like the above comment you have never once denied the existence of discrepencies in the narratives throughout our discussion and have as a matter of fact conceded that variances exist, but added that they do not change the historicity of the event. Let’s have a look at the variances closely and see whether they are “slightly varied” as Polycarp claimed.

There are three versions of the story in Acts. The first is in Acts 9: 3-7

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”

Compare the above with the following from Acts 22:6-10,

And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
And I said, What shall I do, LORD? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.

Comments:

In the first narration we are informed that the men that journeyed with him heard the voice, but did not see a man. This was what made them stand speechless. The narration conveys to the discerning reader that what caused them to stand speechless was the voice that they heard coming from nowhere. In comparison, the second narration tells us the cause for their fright was not the voice, but rather what they saw,

“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

The discrepencies are two-fold.

What did they see and hear?
1. They did not see a man(implies the absence of anything visible) VERSUS they saw a light.

2. They heard the voice VERSUS they heard no voice.

What was the cause of their fright?

3. The voice that they heard caused them to stand speechless(fright) VERSUS they saw a visible light and this caused them to be frightened and not the voice which they did not hear.

The critical reader will also notice that the first narration is in the third person and the second is in the first person. The first narration is a retelling of the story by the author of Acts while the second narration is a retelling of the story by Paul that is recorded in Acts(but, not written by Paul). The following are Malik Ali’s comments on the narrations.

“In the first  we have a record of Paul’s men, hearing a voice and seeing no man (ie Jesus). In the second narration, we have Paul claiming that the men saw Jesus, but did not hear a voice. The possibility of Paul manipulating this “event” is clearly revealed in  the second narration, we have Paul defending himself before the Hebrew counsel, and twisting the point that his companions saw a light, but did not hear the voice; apperantly adds more credibility to his phenomenal vision. As a voice could be anyones voice for what the Jews care. Yes there is a contradiction, but from what we have seen from the character of Paul, it should not come as a surprise. In the third narration, he omits any mention of the specific incident.”

Let us now consider the third narration from Acts 26:12-20.

Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth
, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance
.
Comments:

In the first two narrations readers will notice that Paul is singled out as the one who falls down(and no one else). However, in the third version we see that the story becomes a bit more dramatic where all of them together with Paul fell down. In this narration the subject audience was King Agrippa. Perhaps to impress the King some extra drama were in order and so Paul describes the phenomenon dramatically(assuming this report captures what Paul actually said to Agrippa),

“At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

Comparing the first and second narrations against the third the critical reader will notice the following problem.

“And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

“And I said, What shall I do, LORD? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.”

Though there are slight differences in the choice of words in the two narrations above the gist of it is retained. That is to say when Paul wanted to know what he should do he was told by what was supposedly Jesus that he has to wait until he reached Damascus before he is told what he must do. The two narrations are in stark contrast with the third where as we have seen Paul received the full commission as to what was his purpose on the road to Damascus and not when he had reached Damascus. So then the discrepency is as follows,

In Acts 9 and 22 we are told that Paul wanted to know what he must do, but the information was withheld with the promise of clarification upon his arrival at Damascus VERSUS In Acts 26 where Paul does not ask what he must do as he is told BEFORE reaching Damascus right at that moment what he must do. Applying the critical historical aproach any historian will be able to see how the story gets developed as the target audience changes.

There is yet another interesting problem that we should note. When Paul first saw the light did he know who or what it was? The answer is definitely, no. This is because we see in the narrations that he asks for the identity of the light. If he had already known, there was no need to ask. The fact that he asks shows that he is unaware in which case we find quite troubling how he could address the strange unknown light as “LORD” in the first instance. According o scholars and you yourself Polycarp, Paul was very much grounded in Judaism. If that is so then he must have known that in Judaic lore satan and demons can disguise themselves in the form of light. In fact, in Isaiah 14:12 we see a text that is classically interpreted as a reference to Satan or the representative of satan who is described as LIGHT-BEARER or Morning Star. Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that satan can masquerade as an angel of light. It does not bode well for Paul that he immediately addressed the strange light with the title Lord before ascertaining its identity. It would appear that there is an objective, motive and even propaganda behind the narrations i.e. Paul met the real Jesus and believed in him and became a true disciple thus, he called him Lord even at the very beginning of their meeting. For additional details  on this particular issue please proceed to my article Did Paul really meet Jesus?

In your article you have also cited Ehrman and Borg. I do not see any radical difference between Ehrman and Borg from what Ludemann holds as per the summary of their views and the quotations you have provided in your latest comment. Neither Ehrman nor Borg is seen to explicitly endorse the historicity of the event narrated in Acts. Let’s have a look at one of the quotes from Ehrman that you have provided. But, let’s also look at the preceding comment you made prior to the citation.

“If you continue to read the paragraph in Bart Ehrman’s book, “Peter Paul and Mary Magdalene,”you will find that he does not dismiss the visions themselves as not happening because of the differences in the narratives, like Sami Zataari does or as your history professors do. Rather he notes, “There are differences among these three accounts, making it difficult to know what, exactly, the author of Acts wants us to think happened. But the basic story line is similar” (Ehrman pg. 111).

Granted, that Ehrman does not dimiss the events simply because there are conflicting details in them one would go further still to say that he does not endorse their historicity either! The quotation that you have provided nowhere shows Ehrman saying that he believes the event to have actually taken place as told in Acts. Prior to the above you made the following statement,

“So whether the visionary experience was in fact a physical event or a hallucination, there is no denying that Paul experienced something arcane on the road to Damascus.”

Well, I will grant you that many historians lean towards the notion that Paul did experience something that drastically changed his disposition from disbeliever to believer. I will not however, throw myself into that pool. Rather, I will offer an alternative view in a moment. In the quotation above you claim that there is “no denying that Paul experienced something arcane”. Why didn’t you also mention the others who were with Paul? Often people focus on the main subject, Pau but forget the rest of the people who were with him! If Paul’s experience is true then the experience of those with him must be equally true. If this is so then what scholars have to do is now discern as to what exactly did the people with Paul experience because all three narrations evidently give different pictures that conflict with one another. The only conistent part in the narrations is the idea that Paul spoke to a source that identified itself as Jesus. But then the details of the exchange between Paul and supposedly Jesus differ significantly so that that part in the story itself becomes problematic. If scholars cannot establish what really happened with the people who accompanied him what logically follows is that they should not presume that what happened with Paul truly took place either because that story of Paul’s is contingent on the others who were Paul’s only witnesses. What happened to them? Did they become Paul’s disciples? What were their names? Why did they not accompany Jesus to the other disciples to Jerusalem to corroborate his story and help Paul in his newfound mission? It would appear to any reasonable reader that the company who accompanied Jesus is mere fiction. A fiction that was contrived so as to give a sense of credibility to the story since a lone meeting without witnesses would receive much suspicion if not discarded entirely especially considering the fact that Paul was an avid attacker of Christianity in the first place. You would say that it is not reasonable to say that Paul changed his beliefs so drastically. To bridge this dichotomy you would quote Ludemann and others and say that Paul experienced a life changing vision that altered his views and made him into a staunch believer. Before answering this I would like to pose the following question,

If all the details in the story are skewed and conflicting and yet they come from the same(one and only) source i.e. the author of Acts how do we know that it actually happened? It would be more reasonable to say that it did not happen. After all, Bart Ehrman himself says in his latest work Jesus Interrupted on the nature of conlicting reports that both cannot be true, one must be untrue or both can be untrue. I would say that due to the many problems with the reports in Acts regarding the alleged meeting as we have elucidated it is safe to conclude that the incident did not happen at all. After all, the author of both Luke and Acts is known for making mistakes and confusing things as I have already mentioned in my previous reply. Here is the link once again Historial Inaccuracy in Luke.

Before we proceed to the alternative view it is necessary to evaluate Paul as a person whether he was trustworthy or not.

Was he a truthful person?

“But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless being crafty, I CAUGHT YOU WITH GUILE” (2 Corinthians 12:16)

“For if the truth of God,  hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory: why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” (Romans 3:7)

Gaining people through pretense!

“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them under the Law, that I might gain them that are under the Law;
To them that are without the law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are under the law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19:22)

These and other such verses are signs that Paul isn’t as trustworthy as Christians may think. If he could pretend to gain supporters as we read in 1 Corinthians 9 what is to stop him from pretending that he met Jesus or received God’s guidance?

The alternative view

Paul was actually an agent of Rome working closely with them. You might start laughing and dismiss this as a funny conspiracy theory, but hear me out first. It is universally accepted that Paul was a persecutor of Christians, right? Yet, this evil man somehow converted and believed in Jesus later. This does not make sense. How can someone evil and hated a group of people join their ranks out of the blue? Ah, but you Polycarp will not say that he joined them out of the blue, rather he had a VISION or a meeting with Jesus which led him to believe. This then is used as a means to brudge the dichotomy between his anti-Christian stance and his later apprently pro-Christian stance. To me this explanation is unreasonable and compounded further by the fact that the stories regarding it do not match, very ill-consistent and is never once mentioned in detail outside of Acts which makes one wonder if it had not been created by the author of Acts who is quite evidently an admirer of Paul(though never having met him in his life)

If this is a cogent explanation for the apparent drastic change of beliefs in Paul as suggested by Polycarp then why does it not stand with the actual disciples of Jesus? Even they had their reservations about Paul’s transformation. In fact, Peter had quite significant disagreements with Paul’s teachings, though how far the disciples truly disagreed with Paul will probably remain a mystery as we do not have any reliable firsthand testimony about them. What we do have are secondary reports about them by Acts which might as well be called ‘Acts according the Fan of Paul’ instead of the Acts of the Apostles and also Paul in his epistles. If Paul’s story was reasonable and believable the disciples would not have hesitated to embrace Paul. The fact of the matter is that his conversion is almost unbelievable for a number of reasons.

1. After critically assessing the narrations in Acts, I believe it is safe to conclude that if a vision truly happened to Paul then it was his own and was not shared by a group of people who supposedly accompanied him. Why would Jesus appear to Paul in the manner he did and not to his own chosen disciples?

2. Paul himself was a staunch Jew and did not hesitate to persecute the Christians on behalf of the Jewish authorities and the Romans.

3. The teachings of Paul significantly contradict the teachings of the historical Jesus as Ludemann concludes in his Paul:The Founder of Chistianity. On the back of the book we read the following,

“Though other scholars have previously made the point that Paul’s interpretation of the Christian message actually obscured the original teachings of Jesus, Lüdemann goes further. His painstaking historical research shows that Paul created the major tenets of the Christianity we know today and that his theology–an original synthesis of Hebrew and Greek belief systems–differs significantly from what we now know the historical Jesus to have preached.”

Thomas Jefferson remarked that Paul was, “the first orrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.”

Why would Jesus leave his own chosen disciples to believe in the way they did and then appear to this persecutor of Christians, Paul and inspire him vastly different teachings than that which he(Jesus) taught?

4. Jesus’ own disciples had their reservation, but if we had their own testimony instead of a retelling by Paul’s fan in Acts it would not come as a surprise if they actually totally rejected him. They may well have.

There are many telling clues scattered throughout Acts and Paul’s epistles indicating that he conspired with the Romans or at least had the motive to keep the Romans in power. The following is just one of them.

“This roused the whole city: people came running from all sides; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the Temple, and the gates were closed behind them. They would have killed him if a report had not reached the tribune of the cohort that there was rioting all over Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:30-31)

Why would the Romans rescue Paul in the midst of the clamour if indeed there was “rioting all over Jerusalem”? How did they know where to find Paul in the midst of all the commotion? How come they had the time to ascertain that Paul was the cause of the riot? These are some very important questions that should be pondered. Immeditely after being rescued Paul asked to speak to the inflammed crowd and only made them angrier. If the purpose of rescuing Paul was to maintain the peace why did they allow this trouble maker to speak more?

After Paul was taken away he was placed under arrest and supposedly tortured and interrogated. He was taken to Caesarea where he tried to make a personal appeal to the Emperor himself to ‘hear his case’. Who is this person that he could contact the emperor? Paul was also on familiar grounds with the Roman procurator Antonius Felix. In 13:1 there is evidence that Paul was high up in society and had links with the ruling class. In Romans 16:11 is it mere coincidence that his relative is named Herodion? These and many other reasons have led scholars like Prof. Robert Eisenman to conclude that Paul was a Roman agent.

The Christian masses at that time were growing in number, and there were radical groups that threatened to undermine the rule of Rome such as the Zealots. They were influential so much so that going against their beliefs could incur the wrath of the masses and trigger a lot of disturbances as we see in Acts 21:30-31. Is it beyond the pale of possibility that Paul was employed by the Romans to pacify the Christians and the threat that they may pose should they grow out of proportion? Nay, it is not just possible it is likely. Why would Paul teach that Rome was instituted by God and as such should be obeyed?

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:1-7)

Can anyone be more emphatic, clear and so obvious?!? How is it that anyone can miss the significance of the above in that it shows Paul as a Roman sympathiser? Eisenmann remarks, “NOT ONLY is Paul’s pro-Roman and by extension pro-Herodian political philosophy clear from the general tenor of his missionary activities in Acts, it is made explicit in the enunciation of this philosophy in Rom. 13.”(source)

Paul was first chosen to persecute the Christians who were considered rebels and blasphemers, but when that did not bear fruit and the Christian community just kept growing there was a need for reconsideration and ultimately a change in tact. That tactic or plan was to then subvert the teachings of Jesus and truly pacify the Christians into a bunch of peaceful and docile sheep which was indeed successful for a good 300 years prior to the with Constantine. When Paul’s duty was finished or when his employer thought that it was time to get rid of the agent who may spill the beans otheriwse he was executed and so the truth died with him(but not for good).  Why is it that historians shy away from this theory? I think despite the atheistic and liberal leanings of scholars like Ludemann they may still have at least an ounce of sympathy for Christianity and do not have what it takes to take the whole nine yards and tell their Christian friends and potential buyers that Paul was a pretender and a liar from the start.  To accuse him of hallucination and delusion is much more diplomatic and digestible for the masses. Or perhaps in their view the evidence for this position isn’t strong enough. Either way, it is in my view a more feasible explanation historically speaking than to say that he truly met Jesus or that he was somehow deranged and suffered dementia. Thus I would propose that the following is stronger in bridging the obvious dichotomy.

ANTI-CHRISTIAN TENDENCIES –> ROMAN COLLABORATOR –> PRO-CHRISTIAN TENDENCIES

I would recommend Thijs Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon’s Operation Messiah: St. Paul, Roman Intelligence and the Birth of Christianity for further reading. Both authors are historians in their own rght and Thijs earned his MA with a thesis on this very subject.

The following are excellent debates on the subject of resurrection which is directly related to our discussion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qswkA57tpTo&feature=channel_page (Shabir Ally VS John Gilchrist)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWhgW1pzKws&feature=channel_page (Bart D. Ehrman VS Michael Licona)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTsBRrgILdo&feature=channel_page (Shabir Ally VS William Lane Craig)

And my personal favourite

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3wjPLQLNXY (Shabir Ally VS Michael Licona)

You can see in the debate how nervous Licona was to stand on the same platform as Shabir Ally. Watch his Adam’s apple and how he swallows hard throughout the debate. The debate between Shabir and Lane Craig is also excellent. Both scholars made lucid presentations and gave good points for their positions. However, objectively speaking Shabir took the prize as he usually does.

In conclusion, there is hardly any strong evidence to establish beyond doubt that Paul truly met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The story must have either been imagined by Paul or simply fabricated(and embllished) by him and his proponents to push for his credibility as a ticket for him to preach his version of Christianity which eventually supplanted the historical Jesus’ teachings as Ludemann points out. Interestingly enough it was this version that the Roman authorities favoured some 230 years later.

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21 Responses to “Unveiling Polycarp”

  1. Polycarp says:

    Greetings friend,
    It was more than reorganizing and re-gathering of my sources; I was literally in a third world country. Anyways, I found your response engaging and stimulating in the first half and then lacking in the second. First, I want to point out that the first half of your response clearly divulging a new shift in your position (although this doesn’t seem to last long as you try to formulate another attempt to defend that the events did not happen). In the first half, you make it as if Sami Zataari and your position could even accept hallucinations as a possible explanation, in regards to the events that happened to Paul. This of course wasn’t the original positions, as both your positions dismissed the events in their entirety because of the differences in the three narratives, as demonstrated by what you summarized here, “the conflicting reports without a doubt lead to any reasonable and critical person to conclude that they are not reliable and very doubtful. If one cannot established what really happened, then how can someone be so certain that it did happen in the first place,” and Sami Zataari’s conclusion, “Those 4 things would have easily have gotten Paul of the hook, but liars always expose themselves. Paul is false, Allah is true.” It was only after establishing through Borg, Crossan, Ludemann, Ehrman, and Metzger, did your position shift…although I’m not exactly sure if it actually shifted, judging by what you sort of create as a last ditch defense in the second half of your response. Since you did grant the events, I think it’s safe to say we can all agree that something happened to Paul on the road to Damascus.
    The next thing I’d like to touch on is actually more of a question, why do you suppose Borg, Crossan, Ludemann, and Ehrman conclude it was a hallucination rather than a true experience with the risen Christ? They obviously accept the event as happening; but what causes them to throw the experience to the “hallucination pile,” verses the “miraculous true event pile?” I think your personal answer, rather than a quoted answer would be the best response for this.
    In regards to what you tried to establish with Bart Ehrman, if you remember Ehrman stated on pg. 111 of his book, “There is little doubt historically about what converted Paul. He had a vision of Jesus raised from the dead.” I don’t think it gets in clearer than that.
    In regards to the verses you have quoted, you really have not used any proper exegetical methods in deciphering this. In 2 Corinthians 12:16, Paul is referring to the Corinthian church’s charge that he took advantage of them, which includes Titus since he was sent to sort of represent Paul, 8:22. This can be seen throughout the rest of 2 Corinthians, i.e. 2:11, and 7:2. The same applies to Romans 3:7, one must put it into context. If you continue to Romans 3:8, you clearly see what’s going on here,” And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.”So what is actually going on here? Some were accusing Paul and possibly the other apostles of teaching a “let us do evil so that good may result” theology, to which Paul was responding to. Lastly, the same could be said in the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, which again lacks exegetical techniques. What Paul is saying here, which he also makes clear in Romans and some of his other letters, is that one is free to do things that are required by the law of Moses, such as eating pork; but they should not do these things in the presence of brothers who are weak in this area. A tangible example for you would be, if I was ministering to a Muslim community, it may not be in my best interests to eat pork and violate other basic Islamic rules, as long as conceding the actions in no way violate the Gospel and Message of Christ (what verse 21 and 23 sort of point out). I recommend reading all of Paul’s writings before trying to put words in his mouth. I’m reminded by an Islamic theologian who essentially once said, that if you want to get the full context of a verse in the Qur’an, one must read the 10 verses before and after that specific verse to gain the understanding of that verse. I recommend utilizing the same technique. However, I would recommend expanding that idea out even further by reading the entire New Testament, preferably in a less critical fashion. That way you don’t get caught up on things that “appear” to be issues, when they can be explained.

    As far as the “alternate view of Paul,” that is a far reach and is not mainstream scholarship. There are several reasons as to not accept this, without getting into a detailed study of course. First, Paul was a Pharisee, in other words a hardcore Jewish Literalist on the Law…probably awaiting the Messiah’s return to free the Jews from the Romans. Jews of his standing did not accept Rome, especially considering loyalty to Rome required emperor worship (at least in the sense of being an agent for Rome). Jews of that day, or at least the ones who remained true to their heritage, did not get along with the Romans. This is clearly seen by the constant hostilities, Jewish rebellions in the Holy Land, and the eventual scattering of the Jews across the empire. This also brings me to your question, “yet, this evil man somehow converted and believed in Jesus later. This does not make sense. How can someone evil and hated a group of people join their ranks out of the blue?” To which I’ll answer two different ways, first off, this statement also applies to the alternate view of Paul. How could one who would have been a strict Jewish Pharisee, taught to dislike Rome, and was probably awaiting the arrival of the Messiah that would vanquish Rome from Israel, become a Roman agent? Secondly, my father was an atheist who hated religion…doing what he wanted literally; as he did illegal drugs, stole, had sex with many women, to include married women, paid for abortions, and the list could go on and on. However, he had an experience with God, to which he became a Christian a short time later giving up these things. So then the question could apply here as well; how could one who hates Christianity and loves worldly desires, almost overnight embrace Christ, turning away from all those acts of immorality and living faithful to this day? Second reason as to not accept the alternate view, Paul was executed by the Romans, as recorded by Peter and Paul’s followers in the latter half of the 1st century. To conclude, I believe the article should be re-entitled, “Unveiling Sami Zataari,” as we have seen the position initially taken up in his paper that the events did not even occur because of the differences in the narratives, has been dismissed even by you.

  2. Allah's servant says:

    Mashallah a great response, brothers and sisters please also visit and support me. I have made a website exposing the religion hinduism ….. http://www.truthofhinduism.co.cc ..,i hope anwar will not mind it. Me posting this

  3. Polycarp says:

    Greetings,

    I’m curious as to why my post hasn’t been approved yet?

    Allah Myek

  4. Polycarp says:

    Sorry, I did not see that it was approved. My apologies.

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      I’ve been rather busy lately so I apologise for the delay in approving your comment. Insha’Allah i’ll produce a response either tonight or tomorrow.

  5. Ali.H says:

    Polycarp change your name man… I always think your poly-crap 😮

  6. Zayed Ahmed says:

    Ali.H man change your shia sect and stop hitting yourself because for u shia guys many people have the wrong concpt of islam..they think it rubish i tell you it is really rubish that u hit yourself..and stop corrupting islam with your false shia ideologies including the false caliph of islam ALI…so man make sure that i dont see u on TV hitting yourself with blood pouring out

  7. Shalmo says:

    The problem with christians who accept Paul’s conversion story is the fallaciousness that comes with it.

    Why do they not accept the conversion of the founder of the Moonies? He also claimed to have received a vision from Jesus which gave him “Truths” from which he founded his cult. He too claimed to have changed from a visionary experience of Jesus. They accept him as a cultist who made up his own religion, so then why the special pleadings with Paul?

    Paul never met Jesus. His only claim to authority is that he saw Jesus in a vision. A claim many cultists have made over the years. If we disregard them all, then we should do the same with Paul.

    The problem is Paul wrote around 2/3rds of the NT. How can anyone trust the majority of a set of books whose only claim to authority is seeing Jesus in a dream. I have seen dreams of Jesus as well. Will Christians accept my gospel now?

    • genesis 1 says:

      Hi
      How can anyone trust the prophet Muhammad when there were no other messengers or apostles to check and verify his claims, at least Paul the Apostle had the Apostles and other Christian leaders verify what he was preaching.

      Ho yeah and Muhammad never SAW Allah how does he know what he was recieving from the Angel Gabriel was from God

      Al-Jalalayn in relation to Q. 22:52-53:

      And We did not send before you any messenger (rasul) – this is a prophet who has been commanded to deliver a Message – or prophet (nabi) – one who has not been commanded to deliver anything – but that when he recited [the scripture] Satan cast into his recitation, what is not from the Qur’an, but which those to whom he [the prophet] had been sent would find pleasing. The Prophet (s) had, during an assembly of the [men of] Quraysh, after reciting the [following verses from] surat al-Najm, Have you considered Lat and ‘Uzza? And Manat, the third one? [53:19-20] added, as a result of Satan casting them onto his tongue without his [the Prophet’s] being aware of it, [the following words]: ‘those are the high-flying cranes (al-gharaniq al-‘ula) and indeed their intercession is to be hoped for’, and so they [the men of Quraysh] were thereby delighted. Gabriel, however, later informed him [the Prophet] of this that Satan had cast onto his tongue and he was grieved by it; but was [subsequently] comforted with this following verse that he might be reassured [of God’s pleasure]: thereat God abrogates, nullifies, whatever Satan had cast, then God confirms His revelations. And God is Knower, of Satan’s casting of that which has been mentioned, Wise, in His enabling him [Satan] to do such things, for He does whatever He wishes.

      It seems to me that he didn’t know the difference between the devil and Gabriel and there are many more references that relate to this

      • Ibn Anwar says:

        Can you tell me which prophet checked and verified the claims made by Isaiah, Daniel or Malachi in their own time? There were no prophets during Isaiah’s time to check his claims. Thus by your criterion Isaiah is a false prophet. Congratulations for proving to us that your Bible is false.

        Who told you that a Prophet needs to see God to be a prophet? 1 Timithy 6:16 says specifically that NO ONE HAS SEEN OR CAN SEE God. Is this a lie? What about Jacob seeing God face to face? That expression “face to face” does not mean literally seeing God’s face. That is a figure of speech denoting intimacy. In English if I said, “we see eye to eye” does that mean that we actually have to literally see each other in the eye? No, it is an expression meaning we are in agreement. What about Moses and the burning bush? Did Moses see God the Creator? No, Moses spoke to an angel as mentioned in Acts 7 by Stephen. Stephen did not claim that Moses saw Jesus which he should have said if indeed it was Jesus or God because by this time Jesus was already known. Yet, he says that Moses saw the angel of the Lord NOT the Lord Himself.

        So you have failed.

  8. theconfessors says:

    Shalmo,

    It is not fallacious to accept some revelations while rejecting other revelations if there is some sort of good reasoning behind it. You do this when you reject Paul’s account but accept Muhammad’s account of a revelation. For example, if we take Paul’s account to be accurate, not only did Paul receive revelation but also a member of the church in regards to Paul’s conversion. Paul also demonstrated a completely changed life (just before he was killing Christians), Paul met with the apostles to gain their knowledge and he probably shared his experiences, Peter accepts Paul in his epistles, and Paul’s epistles mesh with Christian thought and belief, rather than an off the wall view like Moon, Joseph Smith, David Koresh, etc. etc.

    Polycarp

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Greetings,
      It’s been a while since we last exchanged words my friend. I apologise for being absent for so long. I’ve been preoccupied with university work and other things as well. I hope you are in good health. Now you have tried to compare Paul to Muhammad in terms of their experience of revelation. This is a fallacy. It is a false comparison. There is hardly any historian that doubts the credibility of Muhammad’s person. Muhammad’s innate sincere disposition that gave him the title of Al-Ameen even from his enemies is also recognised by non-Muslim historians. Paul on the other hand is a different matter all together. We know very well the history of Paul. He is universally viewed as a knave and a liar at the very least before his alleged conversion. In my article I think I have presented a very cogent argument to show that this lying nature of his persisted even after the alleged experience on the road to Damascus. It is thus acceptable to believe in Muhammad’s testimony regarding revelation and reject Paul’s. You mentioned that Paul’s teachings mesh together with Christian thought and belief. How is this proof of Paul’s veracity in terms of true revelation? Of course you will find some equilibrium between the teachings of Orthodox Christianity with Paul’s. The former base their teachings on his writings, hence the correlation. However, if one read on the early history of Christianity one will find a wide array of Christianities. Paul’s teachings became dominant because they received the most followers who in time outnumbered the other sects and eventually garnered political support which sealed the fate of other movements i.e. extermination. You claimed that Peter accepted Pal in his writings. What writings are you talking about? The Epistles attributes to Peter? 1st Peter is dated to 90 CE by Werner Georg Kummel in his introduction to the NT. Other scholars give dates that range between 75 to 112 CE. Whichever way you go it is impossible to attribute it to Peter since by 75 CE he did not live over 70 CE. His death occured in approximately 65 CE. This among other reasons have led a large number of scholars to discard Petrine authorship to 1st Peter. It is today largely regarded as anonymous like the four gospels and most writings of the NT. What about 2nd Peter? In “Internal Criticism as a Criterion for Authorship in the New Testament” in the journal “Bibliotheca Sacra” Gary B. Ferngren mentions that the majority of scholars today regard 2nd Peter as pseudonymous. So there is no evidence that Peter actually attested to Paul’s testimony. We have no first hand account of any of Jesus’ immediate disciples’ view regarding Paul. I have already mentioned this in the article above. By the way there is a strong case against Church theological doctrine as opposed to Paul’s understanding of deity. So your claim that Paul’s writings mesh with Christian thought and belief isn’t the entire truth.

  9. theconfessors says:

    I’m doing well, thanks for asking;I’ve been busy myself and it appears things will only get more busy.

    Well, Paul as a person is rarely doubted; even the sources you quote continuously acknowledge Paul as a person. As I’ve demonstrated above, many historians have no doubt that Paul experienced something on the way to Damascus. Those that don’t accept it as anything more than a hallucination type vision, do so because of philosophical presumptions (this can be seen in how Marcus Borg, J.D. Crossan, and Bart Ehrma do their work). As far as Muhammad’s vision, even Muhammad himself wasn’t sure the nature of his vision as he attributed it to an evil spirit at first. What you’ve demonstrated is nothing more than cherry picking, rejecting and accepting information from sources that agree with your position without any good reasons. The differing stories of Paul’s conversion are not enough for Bart Ehrman (a scholar quoted many of times by yourself) to declare it as fraudulent or a lie. Here’s a list of various New Testament scholars, both liberal and conservatives dating 1st Peter:
    Believer’s Study Bible, A.D. 63-64
    Allen Black, Ph.D. no later than AD 68
    Raymond Brown, Ph.D. if written by Peter, 60-63; more likely 70-90
    D.A. Carson, R.T. France, and G.J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21 Century Edition, 63 to 64 CE
    David A. Fiensy, Ph.D. AD 65
    Donald Guthrie, Ph.D. New Testament Introduction, 58 to 68 CE
    A.E. Hill, Ph.D. AD 58 to 68
    R. Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and D. Brown, eds. AD 67 to 68
    John MacArthur, Ph.D. about AD 64 to 65
    K.E. Malberg, AD 64 to 65
    J. Ramsey Michaels, Ph.D. AD 64
    M.S. Mills, circa. AD 62 AD 54–64, with a later date being more likely
    S.L. Peterson, AD 100 Timeline Charts of the Western Church
    J.A.T. Robinson, Ph.D. Spring AD 65
    T. Robinson, AD 63 to 64 The Bible Timeline
    Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D., Ryrie Study Bible AD 63 to 64
    J. Walvoord and R. Zuck AD 64 The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures
    Here’s a list for 2nd Peter:
    Richard J. Bauckham, Ph.D. AD 80 to 90
    Believer’s Study Bible, A.D. 65-66
    Mark C. Black, Ph.D. mid AD 60’s
    Raymond Brown, Ph.D. after Pauline letters, after 1 Peter and Jude; most likely 130 give or take a decade.
    D.A. Carson, R.T. France, and G.J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21 Century Edition, 60 to 69 CE
    David A. Fiensy, Ph.D. AD 64 or more likely 65
    Donald Guthrie, Ph.D. New Testament Introduction, 60 to 68 CE
    A.E. Hill, Ph.D. AD 65 to 68
    R. Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and D. Brown, eds. AD 68 to 69
    John MacArthur, Ph.D. about AD 67 to 68
    K.E. Malberg, AD 64 to 65
    M.S. Mills, AD 67
    S.L. Peterson, AD 110 Timeline Charts of the Western Church
    J.A.T. Robinson, Ph.D. AD 61 to 62
    T. Robinson, AD 63 to 64 The Bible Timeline
    Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D., Ryrie Study Bible AD 66
    J. Walvoord and R. Zuck AD 64 to 68 The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures

    As you can see, most date 1st and 2nd Peter in the 60s.

    As far as the author of 1st Peter, is there any real reason to doubt its authorship? Not only does the author identify himself, but we see a similarity to the history and terminology found in the Gospels and Acts with regards to Peter’s speeches, we see that the earliest church fathers such as Clement and Polycarp make use of 1st Peter in their writings, and we also see that the church fathers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, and Origen make it clear that Peter authored 1st Peter. So what good reasoning do the scholars have for believing it wasn’t written by Peter?

    2nd Peter, I’ll admit this one is less sturdy than 1st Peter and rejected by more scholars than 1st Peter in its authenticity. However, there are still good reasons to believe that this is an authentic letter from Peter: The author identifies himself as Peter; not only that but Peter identifies himself as Symeon, the Hebrew form of Simon. This is significant because it is unusual as it is a Hebrew spelling of the name in a widely circulated Greek document. If it was an impostor, it is more probable that they would have used the common Greek Simon instead. Also the author asserts that 2nd Peter is his 2nd letter, refers to Paul as a dear brother, Clement seems to allude to it, Eusebius admits that most accept its authenticity (to include James and Jude), 2nd Peter may differ in writing than 1st Peter, but it is the closest in style to 1st Peter than any other writing, and it was widely accepted as authoritative early on. The majority of arguments against its authenticity revolve around various assumptions. The strongest argument against 2nd Peter’s authenticity is that it wasn’t externally attributed to Peter until around Origen’s time (however it was circulated prior to this).

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Greetings.

      You said,”Well, Paul as a person is rarely doubted; even the sources you quote continuously acknowledge Paul as a person. As I’ve demonstrated above, many historians have no doubt that Paul experienced something on the way to Damascus. Those that don’t accept it as anything more than a hallucination type vision, do so because of philosophical presumptions.”

      I do not think I have questioned Paul as a person. Rather, I have shown that Paul is untrustworthy right from the beginning. Even if for the sake of argument I were to agree with you that he truly experienced something on the road to Damascus that changed his life that does not prove that his experience was a genuine meeting with Jesus, but was his own hallucination. Those two positions have good support i.e. in the simple fact that his teachings deviated much from Jesus’ as NT historians have long noted. The dichotomy between Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching are so different that scholars have often called Paul the true founder of Christianity since the religion is based more on what he taught than Jesus’ teachings.

      You said, “The differing stories of Paul’s conversion are not enough for Bart Ehrman (a scholar quoted many of times by yourself) to declare it as fraudulent or a lie.”
      Just because I quote Bart D. Ehrman many times does not mean that I am obliged to adhere to all his conclusions. If I did I would have to stop being a Muslim since I would have to start following his conclusions in “God’s Problem”. I respect highly Bart D. Ehrman’s scholarship, but in this case I would have to disagree with him and say that Paul’s contradictory stories on the road to Damascus should raise some red flags which incidentally is based on Ehrman’s own criterion for historicity that he discusses in “Jesus Interrupted”.

      Thank you for providing that long list of numerous different dates my friend. One does not need to be a historian to see that you have shoot yourself in the foot by quoting all of them. No two authorities that you have quoted agree on the date of the letter’s composition! What does that tell you? One word my friend, CONJECTURE. But, let us break down the dates given anyway. As I have mentioned in my previous response Peter’s death occured in 65 CE or 64 CE earliest. This means we can conclusively strike out Allen Black, Raymond Brown, David A Fiensy, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, John McArthur, K.E. Malberg, J. Ramsey Michaels, S.L. Peterson, J.A.T Robinson, J. Walvrood & R. Zuck. We are then left with Believer’s Study Bible, D.A. Carson, R.T. France, G.J. Wenham, Donald Guthrie, A.E. Hill, M.S. Mills, T. Robinson and Charles Caldwell Ryrie. Believers’ Study Bible, D.A. Carson, R.T. France, G.J Wenham, T.Robinson and Charles Caldwell Ryrie all give a range between 63-64 CE. Do you honestly think that Peter would have waited till one year before he died to write his letter if it was written in 63 CE that is. But the range is from 63 to 64 which would safely give us the same result as the rest, that is to say he could not have written it when he had died in 64 CE(as Margherita Guaducci concluded). No wonder Raymond Brown said that if Peter had written it then it should be between 60-63. Why? Because by 64 AD he had already gone! But, Raymond Brown concludes that the epistle was likely written later between 70 to 90 CE which would mean that the epistle was posthumously written by Peter’s ghost if you insist that he wrote it. So after striking all those out we are left with only three namlely, Donald Guthrie and A.E. Hills who give a range between 58 to 68 CE and M.S. Mills who gives the earliesr from 54 to 64 C.E. Notice that the dates given include the years in which Peter had died which means that there is a good chance that it was written then especially so considering that most of the dates given place the date of authorship around his death. The majority has spoken as 1 Peter remains ANONYMOUS.

      You said, “As far as the author of 1st Peter, is there any real reason to doubt its authorship? Not only does the author identify himself,…”

      Just because the one who wrote it claims to be an eyewitness to Jesus(1 Peter 1:17) does not make it true especially when it was written decades after Jesus had gone. What is more we have clear examples of people misusing others’ identity to give credibility to their own writings as we can see with the pseudonymous letters of Paul. In fact Caroline T. Schroeder puts 1 Peter in the same category as the pastoral epistles and others in that they are pseudonymous. Hence 1 Peter 1:1 identifying the author as Kephas is of no consequence. When the author calls himself ‘apostolos’ in 1 Peter 1:1 then ‘sumpresbuteros’ that should give you enough reason to see that this person has compromised his credibility since the latter title is only to be traced back into the late period of development in Christian ecclesiology as noted by Udo Schnelle. Further more, in 1 Peter 4 the anonymous author discusses a terrible persecution that could not have taken place prior to Peter’s death. The standard of Greek used in the letter cannot possibly be attributed to Peter who was a common Galileean fisherman as Paul J. Achtemeier contends in “A Commentary on First Peter”. You might counter by saying that Silvanus helped Peter compose the letter which then accounts for the high level of rhetoric and language of the letter. I would argue that the reason why Silvanus is mentioned in the letter is precisely because it is really Pauline rather than Petrine in origin. What I mean by this is that whoever wrote the letter was familiar with Pauline teachings which accounts for the excessive Pauline ideas in the letter. Silvanus was of course Paul’s associate mentioned in Thessalonians and Corinthians. Being familiar with Paul the anonymous author of 1 Peter inadvertently cites his associate. The scholar Kummel says it well in the following,
      “1 Peter contains no evidence at all of familiarity with the earthly Jesus, his life, his teaching, and his death, but makes reference only in a general way to the ‘sufferings’ of Christ. It is scarcely conceivable that Peter would neither have sought to strengthen his authority by referring to his personal connections with Jesus nor have referred to the example of Jesus in some way.” (W. G. Kummel)

      It is little wonder that the theologian Prof. Philip Esler in “The early Christian world” says that most scholars agree that 1 Peter was written by an anonymous individual after Peter.

      I do not think I need to argue against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter since it is almost an axiom in Biblical scholarship today that it is non-Petrine in origin and falls under the pseudepigraphical category. The eminent NT scholar Prof. Raymond E. Brown succinctly says, “the pseudonymity of II Pet is more certain than that of any other NT work.” (Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible)

  10. theconfessors says:

    “I do not think I have questioned Paul as a person. Rather, I have shown that Paul is untrustworthy right from the beginning. Even if for the sake of argument I were to agree with you that he truly experienced something on the road to Damascus that changed his life that does not prove that his experience was a genuine meeting with Jesus, but was his own hallucination. Those two positions have good support i.e. in the simple fact that his teachings deviated much from Jesus’ as NT historians have long noted. The dichotomy between Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching are so different that scholars have often called Paul the true founder of Christianity since the religion is based more on what he taught than Jesus’ teachings.”

    It was a misunderstanding of this statement: “There is hardly any historian that doubts the credibility of Muhammad’s person.” However, I see what you mean; you’re trying to say that not many historians doubt Muhammad’s credibility of events. This quote shouldn’t surprise anyone; the many of historians you could quote for your position on Muhammad do not apply the same standards the historians you use to critique the Bible. As they themselves admit, they start off with the presumption that supernatural events are improvable via historical interpretation. So quoting scholars who take Muhammad’s experience with Gabriel in the cave as truth, would clearly indicate these scholars do not hold to the same standards as those you quote in regards to the Bible. If they did, the most they could come up with is that Muhammad experienced some sort of natural vision such as hallucination visions. If you cannot see this double standard in material used, there is no reason to proceed further, as you’re being intellectually un-virtuous.

  11. rocky bal boa says:

    Again, it seems that the “Gentile” mission field is an afterthought, prompted by the Pauline school after it began to become clear that the original intention of Jesus was never going to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, Jesus is requiring the apostles to preach to Gentiles in Matthew 28, so the apostles’ continued restricting of themselves to Jews alone can only mean (under inerrantist assumptions) that in spite of Spiritual empowerment in Acts 2, they just plain didn’t care about the resurrected Jesus’ commands, thus tarnishing their credibility as eyewitnesses of the resurrection. You saw the resurrected Jesus, but you have no inclincation to obey him? Baur wasn’t wrong: Pauline Christianity as set forth in the New Testament is a corruption of the exclusively Jewish form Jesus intended it to be originally. What’s worse, Paul insists in Romans 11:11 that the gospel went to the Gentiles because the Jews first rejected it.

    This is near impossible to reconcile with Acts 21 which says James’ ministry resulted in “myriads” (i.e., tens of thousands) of Jews converting to the gospel. Does it make sense to characterize the successes of the gospel to the Jews recorded in Acts, as a failure of the Jews to accept the gospel? This is nonsense. Either Paul did not know of the high success rate of the gospel among the Jews, or else he viewed James’s gospel as a corrupted gospel, or else Acts is embellishing the number of Jews taht converted under the apostles.

  12. mrsonic says:

    paul makes reference to verses in the torah to prove that his version of the messiah died and ressurected.why use an ancient book to prove to the jews? instead why not use the gospel versions , for example why did not paul make reference to pete touching the wounds on jesus’s body and ADDRESS the jewish claim which said that the deciples stole the body? pauls proof is his interpretation of the ot, and that is all.

    • Critiquing of the Critic says:

      Many of Paul’s writings were before the Gospels were written.He was trying to show these were prophecies proving Jesus’ messiahship, just as a Muslim might try to use the Bible to show Muhammed was a prophet.
      Assalaam Alaikom

  13. usman says:

    paul claims that he persecuted christians .
    what were the beliefs of the christians that he persecuted?
    trinitarians would like to believe that the christians who were persecuted by paul were also trinitarians.
    i think that what the pro- roman propagandanist and anti-semite paul is saying is that TORAH LAW makes you an evil person.this same crap is what trinitarians utter in their sermons in the states.i paraphrase paul , “i was a strict torah law follower, this law made me in to a hypocrite and i persecuted christians because of this law. ” i belive that pauls claim that he persecuted christians was used to turn jews in the despora in to pauline apostates. WHAT REALLY PERSECUTED xtians WAS THE TORAH law and the new hallucination made the law obsolete. paul used his unverifiable lie i.e persecution of xtians to his advantage.

    what do you think my friend ibn anwar?

  14. usman says:

    is it no suprise that everything about christianity is in contrast to judaism? you would expect this paul fellow who uses torah to find prophecies in it , to keep and abide by torah laws, but he tosses the laws out of the window because aman was nailed to the cross?

  15. Imad says:

    I just want to point out that there are no “versions from both sides” about the Punic Wars. There is just the Roman side. Carthage did not survive to tell its tale. Most of what we know about those terrible wars were from the pens of Livy and Polybius. I am not aware of any version from the Carthaginian side.

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