In the previous two lessons, we discussed the similarities and the differences between Paul and the prophets of the Tanakh, and now I am going to try to bring it all together.
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All of these activities are written down in the Bible and are considered scripture. But what is scripture? Is it what God says? Is it what Yeshua says? Or is it also what any human may say?
Well, according to Webster, scripture is what is included in the Bible, or simply “a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative.” So, if someone includes some writings in a book as an authoritative narrative (such as the Gospels or the Torah), that is all it needs to qualify as “scripture.”
The Bible was put together by men (sorry, no women were involved) and these men decided, looking at all the different writings available to them, which should be considered “scripture”.
Of course, we are told that they were divinely inspired to choose the right things.
From what I could find in researching the Internet, the first “Bible” (all 66 books) was put together by St. Jerome sometime around 400 CE. The Tanakh books are considered to have been written by the people the books are named after, except (of course) for the Torah, which was written by God, dictated through Moses.
As for the New Covenant, there were many scrolls that were available, and the general consensus is the Canon of Trent (1546) is where the Christian canon was first accepted, based on the Synod of Hippo Regius, held in North Africa in 393 AD.
So, why all this hubbub about scripture?
The reason is that what I am about to say may upset some people who consider the entire Bible the word of, or should I say the word from, God.
In truth, the Bible is a compilation of many writings, some of which are the direct word of God, such as the Torah. As we discussed earlier, that’s the only place in the entire Bible where we are being told directly from God what we should do.
The books of the Nevi’im (Prophets) contain both what God said (to the prophets to tell the people) and a historical narrative of the events that occurred during those times.
The other writings in the Tanakh called the Ketuvim (Ruth, Job, Song of Songs, etc.) were originated from men. There is, unquestionably, some divinely inspired wisdom, but still and all, it is scripture only because it is included in the Bible.
This is where some of you may be feeling a little discomfort, having been taught by everyone you know, love, and respect that every single part of the Bible is God-breathed, God-ordained, or God-inspired.
I am of the opinion that it isn’t. The only place in the entire Bible (Genesis through Revelation) where God dictates exactly what he wants us to do is in the Torah and the writings of the Prophets, specifically what he tells the prophet to say to the people, and nowhere else.
This is the main similarity between Paul and the prophets: they were both divinely called to bring people into communion with God.
This is the main difference between Paul and the prophets: what the prophets said was directly from God but what Paul said was not.
The bottom line is this: Paul’s letters are considered scripture because men said they should be included in the Bible, and whatever is in the Bible is, by definition, scripture. The important thing to note here is that scripture is NOT necessarily direct from God. In fact, most of the Bible is an eyewitness narrative of events that occurred, recorded by men, and determined to be authoritative by men.
Paul’s letters are originated from Paul and were nothing more than managerial directives to Gentile Believers, first learning about the Torah, to get them back onto the path of righteousness without forcing them to totally convert all at once.
When we read what the prophets told the people, we are hearing from God, but when we read the letters Paul wrote to his congregations, we are hearing from Paul.
Christianity has, for the most part, rejected what God said in the Torah and through the prophets; instead, they have used Paul’s letters as the foundation of their religion, along with the many Christian holidays, rituals, ceremonies, canon, and laws that are ALL man-made.
What we call “Judaism” is directly from God, and what we call “Christianity” is from men misusing Paul’s letters, which he wrote on his own initiative.
The final lesson about Paul and the Prophets is this: the prophets spoke God’s word which they received directly from God; Paul quoted what God told Moses and the prophets, but he tweaked it so that the Gentiles he was teaching only leaned a little at a time.
The biggest similarity between Paul and the prophets is that they both tried to bring people into communion with God so they could be saved; the biggest difference is that the prophets spoke what they heard from God, and Paul spoke what he knew from the Tanakh.
You know, as we finish this lesson, the one thing that Paul and the prophets had in common, more than anything else, is that they were both doing God’s work in the world, and both being rejected and persecuted for doing so.
Maybe, going forward, that is the best thing for us to take from this teaching series: when you do God’s work, whether you hear it directly from God or are working from your own knowledge of what God has already told others, expect to be rejected and persecuted by the ones you are trying to save.
Thank you for being here throughout this teaching, and I hope it has been edifying to you.
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That’s it for now, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!