The Problems with Pauline Scripture

Aggregated from C. Stanley, R. Hays, & E. E. Ellis

Paul's quotation process is used to attain his power over the source-texts. Paul's reinterpretation of scripture asserts his power over both the source and the text and therefore the audience for whom the quotations serves as an inducement to listen to him and follow his Pauline commands. In other words, Paul simply uses just enough of the Old Testament to make his ideas sound correct and relevant. To improve the likelihood that the quotation will achieve it’s purpose, Paul typically embeds the quotation in an explanatory framework that signals the audience how the quotation is to be understood. Whether this meaning corresponds to the “original sense” of the passage is irrelevant as long as the audience is willing to accept Paul's interpretation and version of the passage. Because of the authority he exerted, the people of his time were all too willing to accept what he had to say. Just as today, a combination of historical fatigue and an exertion of authority by the christian churches, convinces the people to give a growing weight to the Pauline Epistles over the teachings of Jesus.

Paul’s letters are rhetorical works, not objective depictions of reality. What we encounter in Paul’s letters is not the “real” Paul or the “real” audience, but Paul’s momentary construction of both himself and his intended audience. Paul seems to have made a serious effort to embed his quotations within a network of interpretive remarks that would enable his audiences to grasp their rhetorical point without having to know the original context of the quotation. While there are certainly instances where familiarity with the original context would have deepened the rhetorical impact of a quotation, there are far more places where a reader who knew the source text would have found reason to question Paul’s handling of the biblical text, and possibly his entire argument.

Sometimes Paul appended a verse of Scripture, in a few places he used biblical quotation to replace his own words and in certain instances he seems to have lifted a verse or phrase from Scripture simply because it suited his needs. Some of these references to Scripture probably came to Paul spontaneously, but most show signs of having been carefully planned in advance.

In Romans 10:6-8 through a series of parenthetical interpretive comments, Paul takes possession of Moses’ exhortation and transforms its sense. This tour de force reinterpretation is not an isolated instance. Paul repeatedly interprets scripture he grappled his way through vigorous and theologically generative reappropriation of Israel’s Scriptures. He insistently sought to show that his proclamation of the gospel was grounded in the witness of Israel’s texts. The trick lay in learning to read these texts aright. Consequently defamiliarization is the first requirement of a critical examination of Paul’s use of Scripture. We learn how rightly to read Paul’s letters as Scripture only by first reading them as not-Scripture.

Paul used the Greek Septuagint exclusively almost always word-for-word. Paul’s use of the Greek Septuagint in his letters is no mere concession to the ignorance of his Greek-speaking Gentile readers, but reflects his own pattern of study in the standard Greek version of his day.

Deviations from the Septuagint are by no means random, as one might expect in the case of errors of memory, but correspond closely to the function of the quotation in Paul’s developing argument. Paul took obvious care with which the quotations were selected and extracted from their original contexts. The sheer obscurity of many passages adduced by Paul in support of his own positions argues in favor of some sort of direct recourse to the biblical text on the part of Paul.

In his quotations Paul exhibits various acts of citational omission, conflation, addition, substitution, insertion, and conversion of the written Greek Tanakh. Careful examination of Paul’s “combined” and “conflated” citations has demonstrated further the skill with which these composite units have been knit together and adapted for their present use shows that it was no careless lapse of memory, but rather a conscious editorial hand that produced such sophisticated pieces of literary and rhetorical artistry, there are at least 112 different isolated readings (in fifty different verses) where it can be affirmed that Paul has indeed adapted and reinterpreted the wording of the biblical text.

It is interesting to note the relative frequency with which various types of adaptations appear in the Pauline corpus. Simply omitting problematic or irrelevant materials is by far the most common method of adapting biblical text to it’s new literary environment. Replacing troublesome words or phrases with more serviceable terminology is also standard procedure. Less frequent though still common are reversals in word order and minor changes in grammar, often required to bring a text into agreement with it’s new linguistic context. Adding one or more words to the biblical text is another technique used occasionally to highlight a particular interpretation of a given verse.

The omissions, shifts in word order, substitutions, and changes in grammar can be traced with reasonable confidence to the editorial activity of Paul himself. Paul takes no pains to conceal from his audience the fact that he has incorporated interpretive elements into the wording of his quotations. Not just obscure texts, but verses that anyone with even a rudimentary acquaintance with the Jewish Scriptures would know have undergone significant adaptation at Paul’s hands.

Christopher D. Stanley.
Arguing with Scripture: The Rhetoric of Quotations in the Letters of Paul. T&T Clark. 2004
Richard B. Hays.
Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. Yale University Press. 1989
Christopher D. Stanley.
Paul and the Language of Scripture: Citation Technique in the Pauline Epistles and Contemporary Literature. Cambridge University Press 1992
E. Earle Ellis.
Paul's Use of the Old Testament. Baker Book House. 1981

Paul Arguing Against the Old Testament

Examples of Blatant citational omission, conflation, addition, substitution, insertion, and conversion of Old Testament Scripture by Paul

Pauline Scripture
Old Testament Scripture
Comparisons of Scripture
God knows the devices of the wise, that they are vain.
l Cor. 3:20
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 94:11

God knows the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.
  • God knows the "thoughts of man", not the "devices of the wise".
  • "Are vanity" and "are vain" denotes two unrelated aspects.
  • What God knows is stated as a generality. Paul perverts this into a very specific threat.
We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

2 Cor. 3:13-16

Paul misquoted and misused Exodus 34:32-35

Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai.
When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.
  • Paul claims that the Jews are blind to a proper understanding of their own scriptures, especially those that point to the Universal Christ.
  • Paul in 2 Corinthians states that the Jews have a veil over their hearts that blocks their ability to read and understand the teachings of Moses. The Christian argument continues to assert that when the Jews turn to Paul's Universal Christ, their veil will be removed and they will be able to see the truth.
  • 2 Corinthians is Paul's intentional perversion of a passage from Exodus. In Exodus 34, we are told that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was beaming with rays of light. This light was so intense that the Jews could not look at him. Therefore, when Moses stopped speaking to the Jews and finished teaching them the Torah, he would cover his face with a veil.
But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of Torah, by becoming accursed for us for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree".
Gal 3:13
Paul misquoted and misused Deut 21:22-23

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day: For he that is hanged is accursed of God.
  • Deuteronomy is referring to a man hanged for committing a sin "worthy of death" not just any random person hung on a tree (a living plant rooted in the soil).
  • Deuteronomy doesn't state all persons hanged are "accursed of YHWH", only when the executed [by means of hanging] as a sinner do they become "accursed of God"
  • Paul is attempting to force this unbiblical analogy onto the crucifixion story even though Jesus was not executed by hanging nor did he die on a tree, Jesus was put nailed to an execution stake [made from the wood of a dead tree].
  • Paul asserts that "The Messiah" was forever "accursed of God" and that his death "delivers us from Torah".
And again Isaiah said: "There will be a root of Yishay; and he that will arise will be a prince for the Gentiles; and in him Gentiles hope."
Rom. 15:12
Paul misquoted and misused Isa. 11:10

And in that day it shall be, that the root of Yishay, that stands for a banner of the peoples, to it shall the nations seek: and his resting place shall be glorious.
  • Paul has created a quote out of thin air. This whole verse does not exist in Torah.
  • Isaiah obviously does not say he shall reign or rule over the Gentiles. Isaiah NEVER mentions gentiles.
  • Isaiah refers to "it" not "he" or "him." This seems to be a trick taught by Paul which Christian theologians have learned well and they apply it liberally.
Far be it: for God is truthful, and every man false: as it is written "That you might be upright, in your declarations; and be found pure when they judge you."
Rom. 3:4
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 51:4

Against You, You alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Your sight: so that You are justified in Your sentence, and clear in Your judgement.
  • Psalm 51:4 Explicitly states "justified in Your sentence" [singular] which has no parallel to "upright in your declarations" [plural], this is simply a play on words by Paul.
  • Psalm 51:4 Explicitly states "clear in Your judgement" [as provided by Elohim Himself] which has no parallel to "pure when they judge you" [as provided by a multitude of men], this is also simply a play on words by Paul.
And then will all Israel live. As it is written; "A deliverer will come from Zion and will turn away iniquity from Ya'akov. And then will they have the covenant that proceed from me when I will have forgiven their sins."
Rom. 11:26-27
Paul misquoted and misused Isaiah 59:20-21

Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the LORD. And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore."
  • Isaiah 59:20 states "to Zion" not "from Zion".
  • Isaiah 59:20 states "to them that turn transgression in Jacob" not "turn away iniquity from Jacob".
  • Moreover, "when I will have forgiven their sins" is not in Isaiah 59. Paul created that out of nothing. Nowhere does Isaiah speak of "when I will have forgiven their sins". Isaiah does not use the word "saved" or "salvation" as Paul implies it. The whole ending of Paul's Torah quote does not exist.
Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;
In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come
(In the scroll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Your will, O God.’”
After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.
Heb. 10:7-9
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 40:5-8

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “
Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.
  • Paul incorrectly quotes Psalms to make it appear that the body of the messiah (offered on the cross) is more desired than sacrifices. “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me” In truth, the correct translation of this passage is, “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened;
  • The Old Testament confirms the understanding of Psalm 40:6 by stating that God wants obedience more than sacrifices. “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” [1 Samuel 15:22] Additionally, sin offerings were meant for unintentional sins only (see Leviticus 4) and served to motivate repentance. In the the understanding of Jesus' time, the animal blood sacrifice was not the main ingredient in removing sin. Even a perfect sacrifice not accompanied with sincere repentance could never achieve atonement for the individual.
  • Nowhere does Psalm speak of God not desiring things according to Torah, this leads into Paul's abrogation of all Torah in the next verse. 
  • Paul just so happened to leave out the last phrase "Your Law (Torah) is within my heart" which shows God's will is the law. However, the follow-on verses in Hebrews exclaim that the Torah was abolished, whereas in Psalms no such thing is ever stated.
for they could not endure what was commanded. And even a beast, if it approached the mountain, was to be stoned. And so terrible was the sight that Moshe said, I fear and tremble.
Heb. 12:20-21
Paul misquoted and misused Ex. 19:12-14

And you shall set bounds to the all the people, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that you go not up into the mountain, or touch the border of it: whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death: no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the horn sounds log, they shall come up the mountain. And Moses went down from the mountain to the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.
  • Paul creates his own legend, he completely makes it up. This seems to be another trick taught by Paul which Christians have learned well and they apply it liberally.
  • Exodus never states the people "could not endure what was commanded", it simply states that they were commanded.
  • Exodus never states or implies Moses came down "terrified of the sight" or "fearing and trembling", it states Moses came down and began sanctifying the people.
  • Paul actually throws in Deut 9:19 at the end, which is referring to Moses' fear of God's anger at the time he found them worshipping the Golden Calf.
Therefore it is said: "He ascended on high and carried captivity away, and gave gifts to men."
Eph. 4:8
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 68:18
You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive; you have received gifts from men; yea, from the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell there.
  • Psalm 68:18 says "received gifts" not "gave gifts."
  • It also says "you" not "he." Jesus never led captivity captive, led others to a high mount, or gave gifts unto men.
  • There is an explicit difference between "giving gifts to men" and "receiving gifts for men."
  • Paul replaces God, the subject of the Psalm, with the Universal Christ. A conflation that could lead to preaching that Christ is God.
As it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame"
Rom. 9:33
Paul misquoted and misused Isa. 28:16

"Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily."
  • Isaiah says nothing about believing "in him" Isaiah simply states "he that believes".
  • Isaiah says nothing about "being ashamed".
  • Isaiah says God will lay a precious corner stone, a sure foundation, not a stumbling stone or stone of offense.
  • This is another of Paul's allegory for labeling the Law as something bad, something to be done away with.
For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.
Heb. 10:30
Paul misquoted and misused Deut 32:35-36

Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’
“For the Lord will judge His people
And have compassion on His servants,
When He sees that their power is gone,
And there is no one remaining, bond or free.
  • Paul falsely attributed the original comment to God. He is actually putting words into the mouth of God.The quote was actually made by someone who felt he was speaking as God's agent.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Heb. 10:36-37
Paul misquoted and misused Hab. 2:3

For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not [b]fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
  • Habakuk speaks of "it" coming, it says nothing of "him" coming or "he that comes".
  • The "it" referred to in Habakuk has nothing to do with the arrival of an individual.
  • Habakuk speaks of "it" delaying on it's own accord before it arrives, not of "him" briefly coming then leaving.
  • Yet again, Paul is putting words into God's mouth.
  • Where in Tanakh, especially Habakuk, does God promise "he comes for a very little time"?
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”"
Rom. 4:5-8
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 32:1-2

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
  • "Blessed is he" not “blessed are they".
  • Nowhere does David imply that just because God forgave iniquities means one is saved by faith alone, which is what Paul is saying implicitly.
  • Nowhere does David reference in Psalms a belief or believing "in him".
And when that which is corruptible, will put on incorruption, and that which dies, will put on immortality; then will take place the Word that is written, "Death is absorbed in victory". Where is your sting, O death? And where is your victory, O death?
1 Cor. 15:54-55
Paul misquoted and misused Isa. 25:8

He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.


Paul misquoted and misused Hos. 13:14

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
“I will have no compassion…."
  • Isaiah says death will be "destroyed forever" not "absorbed in victory".
  • Hosea says "your plagues" not "your stings".
  • Hosea says "your destruction" not "your victory".
  • Hosea was written down in interrogatory form.
  • This combination of Tanakh verses amplifies yet another corruption by Paul which he uses to twist Old Testament scripture to mean allegory for the death of the Universal Christ.
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Rom 10:1-2
It's interesting that Paul would claim the Jews who follow the [Mosaic] law aren't basing their zeal on knowledge as his claim contradicts Proverbs 2:6 which states: For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Another verse which states that knowledge is found in obeying the commands of God is Psalm 119:66 which states:
Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I trust your commands.

  • Paul's claim has no foundation since knowledge is found in the Law and Commands of God. Those who don't follow the law are the ones without knowledge.
  • Paul's claim has no foundation since knowledge is found in the Law and Commands of Elohim. Those who don't follow the law are the ones without knowledge.
Because Christ also did not please himself; but as it is written: "The insults of your mockers fell upon me."
Rom. 15:3
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 69:9

For the zeal of my house has eaten me up; and the taunts of those who taunt You have fallen upon me.
  • The "me" referred to in the Psalm is David; he is speaking, NOT Jesus.
  • Yet another example of Paul "quoting" Old Testament completely out of context for his own ends.
And again, David said: "Let there table become a snare before them; and let their reward be a stumbling block. Let their eyes be darkened that they are blinded; and let their back, at all times, be bowed down."
Rom. 11:9-10
Paul misquoted and misused Psalm 69:22-23

Let their table become a snare before them: and when they are at peace, let it be a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.
  • Psalm 69:22 says nothing about "let their reward be a stumbling block", Paul completely leaves out "and when they are at peace, let it be a trap."
  • Psalm 69:23 states that "their loins continually shake" which has absolutely nothing to do with "let their back, at all times, be bowed down."
For they do not know the righteousness of God,but seek to establish their own righteousness: and therefore they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. Rom 10:3 or:
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.
Paul completely contradicts Deut 6:25 and Psa 119:40

And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness. Deut 6:25
How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.
Psa 119:40
  • Here Paul attempts to discredit those who follow the Mosaic Law. However, his assertion that those who follow the law are not submitting to God's righteousness is completely bogus. God gave his laws so that people could establish righteousness.
  • Obviously people could know righteousness because doing what the Law instructed was righteousness. Paul's claim that people who follow the Law aren't submitting to God is without basis.
But the righteousness which is by faith, says thus, "You will not say in your heart, 'Who ascends to heaven and brings Christ down?'" Rom 10:6
Paul partially quotes Deut 30:12 to suit his needs. The full verse is:
It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Deut 30:12
  • Paul now attempts to establish a new form of righteousness which is simply by faith alone with no compliance to the law being needed.
  • Deut 30:12 has nothing to do with Jesus. The Law was given to the people and they don't need to be in any suspense or apprehension regarding how or what to do to find favor with God.
But what says it? "The thing is near to your mouth and to your heart": that is, the word of faith, which we declare. Rom 10:8
Deut 30:14 actually states: But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.
  • Paul has altered Deut 30:14: "the thing is near to your mouth and to your heart"
  • Notice that Paul leaves off of the quote "that you may do it". Paul has twisted Deut 30:14 by chopping off the part he wanted to get rid off. That omitted part is the instruction to obey the Law.
That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,
“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
But you have given me a body to offer.
Heb. 10:5
Paul misquoted and misused
Psalm 40:6

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
  • Paul incorrectly quotes Psalms to make it appear that the body of the messiah (offered on the cross) is more desired than sacrifices.
  • Another verse from the Old Testament confirms the Jewish understanding of Psalm 40:6 by stating that God wants obedience more than sacrifices. “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” [1 Samuel 15:22] Additionally, sin offerings were meant for unintentional sins only (see Leviticus 4) and served to motivate repentance. In the Jewish bible, the animal blood sacrifice was not the main ingredient in removing sin. Even a perfect sacrifice not accompanied with sincere repentance could never achieve atonement for the individual.
  • The prophet Hosea (Chapter 14) taught us that when there is no Temple, our prayers replace sacrifices as the act to arouse our authentic feelings of remorse and repentance. “Offer your lips (of prayer) in place of the bulls (of sacrifices).” [Hosea 14:2] Although the context substantiates the correct understanding, Christian translations avoid the association of sacrifices and prayers. Instead, they often delete the reference to the sacrificial bulls by mistranslating the verse as “Offer the fruit of our lips”.
  • Another passage that clearly instructs to replace sacrifices with prayer is found in the Old Testament, book of Kings, chapter 8. “When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way You shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city which You have chosen and the house which I have built for Your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.” [1 Kings 8:44-45]
  • In general, Christianity attempts to validate the claim for the essential need of blood sacrifices by claiming that the Old Testament, Leviticus 17:11 states, “There is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.” But this statement does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures! In fact, Leviticus 17:11 reads, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Although this verse states that blood serves as a tool to attain atonement for sin, it does not say that blood is only way to achieve this. In truth, there are several examples of achieving atonement through various means without blood, such as “Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them.” [Numbers 16:47]

Paul's Theology Often Contradicts Itself

Paul doesn't just contradict the Old Testament, through his reinterpretations and out-of-context usage. Paul also contradicts his own theological tenets throughout his epistles and letters. Much like in his usage of the Old Testament scriptures (to suit his own scriptural needs & claims) he often says different things to his different audiences that are in complete contention. A general argument is that these different passages should not be taken out of context. However, this means that Paul was using different messages to influence and convince different peoples. This demonstrates that there is zero continuity or coherence across the letters and epistles of Paul, if there was, his writings would not display differing ideals or preachings, but all would be unified and coherent as one singular message.

Paul claims in received his "revelation" that his companions heard it but did not see it
(Acts 9:7)
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one."
which is in contention with & contradicts
(Acts 22:9) that they saw but did not hear the "revelation"
My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me."

and both of those verses are contradicted by Paul's claim in (Acts 26:14) that they neither saw nor heard anything
"We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
Paul claims the Jews were persecuting him in Damascus
(Acts 9:22-25)
"Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall."
which is in contention with & contradicts
his claims that it was the Governor of Damascus who was wanting him persecuted
(2 Corinthians 11:32-33)
"In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands."
Claims in Romans that Jesus will save all Israel
(Rom. 11:26)

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved…..
which is in contention with & contradicts
The assumption that salvation is not automatic for anyone
(I Cor. 9:24-10:12)
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!…..I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses….Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness….And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death……"
The claim that Christ is the head of man and man the head of woman
(1 Cor. 11:3)
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
which is in contention with & contradicts
The claim in Galatians that in Christ "there is no male and female"
(Gal. 3:28)
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Paul's claim he went to Arabia (for an unspecified amount of time) then went to Damascus (Galatians 1:16-17)
To reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus."
which is in contention with & contradicts
the claim that Paul didn’t go to Arabia and went directly to Damascus
(Acts 9:20)
Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God."
The Claim that Jesus became weak
(2 Cor. 13:4)
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him in our dealing with you."
which is in contention with & contradicts
The normal emphasis on the unconditional power of Christ (Rom. 15:18-19)
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ."
The claim that the law cursed Jesus when he died on the cross (Gal. 3:13)
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
which is in contention with & contradicts
The claim elsewhere that the law itself is holy and becomes demonic only because of sinfulness (Rom. 7:7)
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
The claim that Jesus is equal to the God
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority
(Colossians 2:9-10)

"Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
(Philippians 2:6-11)
which is in contention with & contradicts
the subordinationism throughout all of the Epistles in which Paul normally assumes and which the titles "Father" and "Son" imply: “Christ belongs to God,” and “God is the head of Christ
(1 Corinthians 3.23; 11.3)
The claim that all men should imitate Paul
(1 Corinthians 7:6-7 )
"I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that."
which is in contention with & contradicts
His claim that he is the worst sinner of all
(1 Tim. 1:15)
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."
The claim that all should work together to save each other (Galatians 6:2)
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
which is in contention with & contradicts
The claim that all should carry their burdens alone (Galatians 6:5)
"For each one should carry his own load."
The claim that Jesus did away with the Law (Torah)
(Ephesians 2:14-15)
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace"
which is in contention with & contradicts
The claim that the Law should be upheld
(Romans 3:31)
"Do we then overthrow the Law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the Law."
The claim that salvation is by confession alone (Romans 10:9)
"if you confess with your lips the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved"
which is in contention with & contradicts
The claim that salvation is by deeds also (Romans 2:6)
"For he (God) will repay according to each one’s deeds; to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life"

If We Hold Paul Above All Else, Would We Even Know Jesus and His Ministry?

Paul had no contact with the Jesus of history. He never met him and never heard him preach. Moreover, Paul stresses he had minimal contact with Jesus’ successors the Jesus Movement in Jerusalem. From Paul’s letters we know he was shadowed throughout his missionary journeys by emissaries from Jerusalem who were convinced that Paul was spreading a deviant message. In addition, Paul rarely quotes or refers to Jesus’ teachings when formulating or defending his own point of view against adversaries. In light of these considerations the question is posed: if we only had Paul, what would we know of Jesus? More broadly, what is the connection between Paul’s religion and that of Jesus?

  • There are only five ambiguous references to Jesus’ life in the writings of Paul, of which no mention is made of the circumstances leading to his crucifixion.
  • In all of Paul’s writings there is only one ambiguous reference to a known teaching of Jesus. However, there are no references to Jesus’ end-times orientation, his parables, miracles, teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, or Lord’s Prayer.
  • There are no direct parallels in the allusions or allegory used by Paul and the ones used by Jesus. Again, there are no references to Jesus’ end-times orientation, his parables, miracles, teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, or Lord’s Prayer.
  • In all of Paul’s writings there are no teachings used from Jesus to bolster any of Paul’s opinions or refute Paul’s opponents. Paul utilizes his own arguments without support from any of Jesus’ teachings.

Christopher D. Stanley. Arguing with Scripture: The Rhetoric of Quotations in the Letters of Paul. T&T Clark. 2004
Richard B. Hays.
Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. Yale University Press. 1989
Christopher D. Stanley.
Paul and the Language of Scripture: Citation Technique in the Pauline Epistles and Contemporary Literature. Cambridge University Press 1992
E. Earle Ellis.
Paul's Use of the Old Testament. Baker Book House. 1981