Was Paul a Christian or a Jew?

In the book of Acts, Chapter 9, in nearly every Bible that has a heading over the chapter, they call this chapter “Paul’s Conversion to Christianity”.

But was he ever, really, a Christian?

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The answer needs to be prefaced with the fact that there were no “Christians” during the time that Shaul (Paul) was persecuting the believing Jews. The only people at that time who were accepting Yeshua as their Messiah were Jews- there was no contact with the Gentiles, there were no Christians, there were no churches, there was no Christmas or Easter, there was no rule about not eating meat on Friday, the Shabbat was Friday night to Saturday night, there was no Sunday confession- none of that would exist as we know it today until hundreds of years later.

The Gentiles weren’t even a consideration when it came to Yeshua’s teachings or salvation until after Kefa (Peter) had the vision on the rooftop and went to the house of the Roman officer, Cornelius (Acts 10). It is assumed this happened maybe 7-8 years after Yeshua’s resurrection; Shaul’s vision of Yeshua was around the same time that Kefa had his vision on the rooftop, circa 36 A.D. So, as Kefa was given the OK to approach Gentiles, Shaul was being slapped upside the head so he could accept Yeshua and he (as stated in Acts) always went to the synagogues when he entered a town.

His first letter wasn’t written until some 12 years later, to the Galatians.

If you look him up on Wikipedia, it will tell you:

“Paul (previously called Saul of Tarsus; c. 5 – c. 64/65 AD), commonly known as Paul the Apostle and Saint Paul, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world.”

And though I find Wikipedia to be a good research source, in this case they are dead wrong, repeating the Christian desire to remove Shaul from his true Jewish persona, and rebrand him as a Christian.

But the truth is Shaul never was a Christian, and never even changed his name- that was a Greek translation of his Hebrew name, and I seriously doubt anyone, ever, called him “Paul” during his lifetime, just like no one ever called Yeshua “Jesus.”

The truth is Shaul never converted to Christianity (which, as we know, didn’t even exist then)- the fact is he remained a Pharisee, a “Jews’ Jew”, all his life.

And if you don’t want to believe me, then let’s see the way Shaul identified himself to others.

In Acts 21, in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) Shaul is accused by the Jews of teaching to ignore the Torah. The Elders ask him to prove he is still a practicing Jew by observing the Torah requirement regarding taking an oath, which he does, proving he is still a Torah-observant Jew.

At the end of this chapter, and in the beginning of Acts 22, Shaul is making a defense for himself in front of the Jewish population of Yerushalayim. In Acts 21:39, he tells the Roman Commander that he is a Jew from Tarsus, and when he talks to the people, he tells them he is a Jew, born in Tarsus and trained under Gamaliel.

When he wrote to the Philippians (Philippians 3:5-6), he told them that he is a Jew, given B’rit Milah (circumcision) on the 8th day, by birth belonging to Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew-speaker with Hebrew-speaking parents, with regard to the Torah, a Parush (Pharisee), who zealously persecuted the Messianic Jews, and with regard to legalistic observance with the Torah, he was blameless.

Know this: he wrote that letter at the END of his life, while he was a prisoner in Rome, so it is clear that throughout his life, all during the time he was a missionary throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, he remained a Torah observant Jew.

Another letter he wrote, which was some 18 years after he first became a Believing Jew, was to the Corinthians. In that letter, (Corinthians 11:22) he states that as far as other people boasting about their right to be an apostle, he has more of a right to do that: he says he is also a Hebrew-speaker (remember only Jews spoke Hebrew), he says he is also a person of Israel, and he says he is also a descendant of Abraham.

In Ephesians 3:8 (written while a prisoner in Rome, near the end of his life), Shaul tells the congregation there that he is a prisoner on behalf of “you Gentiles” and later states he is one of God’s holy people; in both of these statements he is clearly separating himself from Gentiles, identifying as a Jew.

Time Out: it is important that you understand the Jewish mindset: there are not a lot of different religions, there is simply us and them. The word “Goyim” means “nations”, and for a Jew, especially back in those days, there were only two kinds of people in the world: Jews, and everyone else. So, anytime Shaul, in any way whatsoever, indicates he is separate from the Gentiles, he is stating he identifies as a Jew.

One last proof: reading the letters Shaul wrote, in nearly every single one of them you will find that he always goes to the synagogues the moment he comes into town. He states in Romans 1:16 that the message of the Good News of salvation through Messiah Yeshua was to go to the Jew first, then the Gentile. Shaul was a Jew, taking the Good News to his own people first, then to the rest of the world.

There you have it: Shaul was a Jew, never converted to anything, always observed the Torah, and never taught to ignore the Torah but simply that Gentiles did not have to convert to a Torah-observant lifestyle “cold turkey” the moment they accepted Yeshua as their Messiah.

This is what’s so ironic: traditional Christian teaching is that during the First Century the Jews were converting to Christianity, but the truth is that the pagan Gentiles were converting to Judaism.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and (an early) Shabbat Shalom!

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