Scott Nelson, "Judaism vs Christianity" Refuted

One of the trends these days seems to be people who treat the NT cafeteria-style, for the main purpose of dissing Paul. We've seen at least one atheist do this, but these days, professed believers do the same, claiming that Paul distorted the original Christian message, and in so doing sounding so much like Mormons or JWs that if they had a semblance of awareness of the likeness of their techniques, they might think twice.

We were asked to look at a site titled "Judaism vs. Christianity" authored by one Scott Nelson, though we will mention either name no further – the arguments we will see are typical in their use of decontextualization for these who seek to remove Paul from the canons of the NT and Christian consideration; the "read it in English and announce what we think" style is no more variable from place to place, whether it be this author or another like Douglas del Tondo.

Inevitably, the process is always the same – texts are read in such a way as to always make Paul guilty of something; Paul can never do right, no matter what choice he makes; and certain of Christian doctrines (notably the Trinity and justification by faith) are Pauline errors that distort the true message of Jesus. But as always, let us get down to specifics.

Our subject site is full of errors, and to save the need to dot every T and cross every I, we have elected to take a close look at only 4 of its chapters. The errors permeating these chapters are sufficient, we believe, to reduce the credibility of this source to nought, but as usual, any reader who wishes to request specifics on some other point is welcome to write with questions.

Our first chapter of consideration begins by claiming to find "outright bold-faced lies" perpetrated by Paul. One can well imagine the discord that would follow any explanation of the concept of an honorable lie, such as even Jesus committed, but we'll let that pass.

The first concerns Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council, and much of what is said has a false understanding of the role of faith and works in the Judeo-Christian life and of the role of the law in the current life of the believer. Paul is turned into a thoroughly antimonian rebel -- despite his numerous admonitions to strict moral behavior -- while Peter and Co. are turned arbitrarily into legalist traditionalists.

Peter's calling the law a "burden" in Acts 15 is explained away by saying, "Yes, he did say the law, but what he really meant was that it was a burden in the same way that Jesus said that the Pharisees' implementation of the law, with all its oral traditions added on, was a burden." Never mind that Peter is talking to the church meeting group as a whole and not just the Pharisees; never mind that no such delineation is found in Peter's words; and never mind that it is a simple fact that Jewish inability to keep to the law even as offered plagued Peter's people from Day 1 when Moses came down the mountain, which is the real point.

Matthew 11:20 is quoted ("My yoke is easy and my burden is light.") yet it escapes the commentator that Jesus' own yoke certainly isn't the yoke of the Old Covenant (it is, in fact, Jesus alluding to himself as divine Wisdom; it is his yoke as Wisdom, not a covenant, New or Old, that is in view).

In fact, what our commentator is unaware of – and this is the sort of thing that comes of reading the Bible in isolation from its contexts –- was that Jews of Jesus' day expressed quite paradoxical statements about the law, regarding it as both a burden and as a blessing [Witherington, Acts commentary, 454] – just as a modern missionary may consider it both burden and blessing to serve native peoples in an uncomfortable, hostile setting. Thus there is no need for the contrivance that Peter was making an obscure reference to "the Law with all its oral traditions of additions and amendments" and not merely the Law as it stood. Peter's words are quite intelligible enough without adding on to them.

But not only is Peter so misread; James is as well. His words in Acts 15:19-21 ("Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.") are somehow contrived as James "obviously endorsing dietary and sexual purity laws along with Moses in general" though how one gets all 600+ laws endorsed from this isn't explained. Rather we are told that it is "reasonable to assume that James intended for the four laws he outlined to be stop gap measures, to keep the new believers from doing damage to themselves before they could receive the rest of the Law through the reading of Moses in the synagogues every Sabbath." (!)

As we noted here, the four laws had quite a different purpose, having to do with prohibiting attendance at pagan festivals; but ponder for a moment the oddity here. We are being told that James was implementing a temporary measure until new Gentile converts could go and hear the law. But no Gentile believer would have had to wait more than 6 days to go to any synagogue; it seems more than a trifle outlandish that James constructed these 4 laws to serve them for only the 1-5 days they had to wait to go to synagogue and get the news.

For another, there isn't even that much need: If the Gentile wanted a copy of the law or instruction in it, they no more had to wait until Saturday than most of us have to wait until Sunday to see and hear a Bible. Local Jews had their own copies of the law, or had it in memory. The real reason for the "reading of Moses" reference is to emphasize that Gentile believers were already aware – having had Jews among them for so long – that they would know that there could be no idolatry for them any more, and thus, with the 4 laws, there would be no chance for Diaspora Jews to claim that Gentile believers were "still practicing idolatry and immorality by going to pagan feasts".

Yet the contrivances spare not even details: We are told that, "[t]he continued hallowing of the Sabbath is evident in that James uses the present tense word ‘being', and the attendance of the new Gentile believers to the synagogues on the Sabbath is quite obviously implied."

That is "quite obvious" only if we read what we want into the text; I suppose then that since the number of generations this has been "being" done is noted, that this means Gentile believers would also be able to time-travel to past synagogue meetings. James does need to stress the continuity of the proclamations, to be sure, but to read into it some idea of attendance at these meetings is a erroneous; and thus, in explaining why, if James wanted Gentile believers to be circumcised, yet does not say so in his 4 laws, we are left with a begged-question speculation that James "intended the new believers to be convicted when they heard Moses read in the synagogues and as a result, follow through with the rest of the Law including circumcision." And this is in this small text, where, exactly?

But then, what of the alleged "lie" told by Paul? Our commentator gets one in part by dating Acts 15 before Galatians 2, an error of chronology (see link above), the allegation and fallacious claim that "most scholars agree" that's the way it was notwithstanding.

A second problem is that our subject accepts the idea that Galatians is anti-law polemic, a subject we address here. The error is even offered that Peter was teaching circumcision; that also misrepresents what happened.

Third, because of a lack of recognition of the Jewish relationship between faith (loyalty) and works, passages in Galatians are taken as "anti-Torah/Law arguments" when in fact they are real and practical observations. Galatians 2:16, "...for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified," simply reflects a brute fact: No one kept the law perfectly, so no one indeed will ever be justified by it. (Notice the quote leaves off the first part of the verse: "knowing" – in other words, conspicuously edited is Paul's appeal to common knowledge as the reason for his appeal.)

"But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident..."(Gal. 3:11) is also an appeal to the same brute fact. Quoting back Deuteronomy 6:25 ("Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.") is no answer; it says nothing that erases the brute fact of inability to observe the Law, and indeed, the conditional "if we are careful" – to say nothing of the history of Israel past that time – declares otherwise.

Paul's comment in 3:13, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law..." is singled out for special misuse: "The law is not a curse, nor does it of itself bring one. Breaking the law brings a curse. Therefore it is man and not the Law that is the problem."

Of course, Pauline commentators agree that this is the point Paul is trying to make in the first place [Witherington, Galatians commentary, 233]; the law is a curse not in and of itself, but positionally, for us: Paul's words are simply viewed in the worst possible (and least exegetically possible) light.

Characterized as a "severe doctrinal lie" (though with no explanation) is Gal. 5:2-4, "Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace."

As noted in the Peter vs Paul link above, the issue here is that to take a sign of the old covenant after signing on top the new is itself an implicit indication that Christ is of no use; so there is no "lie" here. Also offered is commentary about Gal. 5:14 that Edgar Jones, another fellow who dislikes Paul, used here, as well as objections about Paul's "hostile" attitude towards the Judaizers – reflective in fact of the same riposte/hostility Jesus had towards opponents; see here).

The bulk of what remains of Paul's alleged "lie" about the Council works from the same error of chronology we have already noted, as well as incorrect interpretations of the exchange between Peter and Paul that we address in the link above. Merely reading the text in English offers no insight into the agonistic setting which governed the exchange between these two, and renders all of the arguments moot.

One final miscue on this point accuses Paul of neglecting Jesus' words on oaths when he swore to the Galatians that he was not lying; on that, see here.

Another "Pauline lie" is sought out in Paul's appearance before the Sanhedrin. The call is made on Acts 23:6-7:

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.

While this is correctly seen as "a divide-and-conquer ploy" it is wrongly stated that "there was not one shred of truth" otherwise, for Paul, it is said, was not "being judged on the issue of the resurrection of the dead..." And Paul says no such thing to begin with. Paul says he has come to trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead, because of his belief in this happening, which is quite true: It is his proclamation of the hope in Jesus that led to him being on trial.

Our subject appeals to Acts 21:27-8, and the words of the mob that Paul was teaching "everywhere against the people, the law, and this place..." as proof that Paul was lying about the nature of the charge – as if indeed the mob itself were trustworthy; or even as if they were the ones bringing up the formal charges? This shouted charge, of "bringing to nothing the importance of Israel, the Law of Moses, and the temple," is an obvious contrivance by a mob looking for action – it never appears as a reason for Paul to be on trial where the legal system is concerned, and if it were indeed the charge, would have been remanded at once to the Jewish system of judgment – not handed off to Rome.

Our subject also raises the usual issue about Paul's versions of his testimony; see here. It is admitted that to object that Paul's additional data in his own, third account (as opposed to Luke's prior two) is indeed an argument from silence; but it is insisted that this is a "good argument from absence" because something does not appear in the first two version that, our subject insists, "ought to" have been there if it really happened.

Of course, Luke's inclusion of the third account is precisely the way in which he chose to amend the first two; all is rather in the service of creating any possible objection against Paul that can be contrived. In any event, what is claimed problematically missing from versions 1 and 2 is the instructions Jesus gave to Paul. But why these should be in versions 1 and 2 at all is not explained; rather, it is simply assumed that Paul lied and added on all of this in the third version to "subtly impress upon King Agrippa's mind the picture that it was his destiny to be delivered from the Jews as was already the case thanks the Gentiles. So next, it would be King Agrippa himself who should deliver him from the Gentiles as well."

It is simply amazing how much creativity is expended in ascribing such motives to Paul, based on no more than the begged question that Paul is a scoundrel, and therefore he must have had some ulterior motive in mind. That this same Paul was "subtly" (so subtly, in fact, it needed our commentator to see it) influencing Agrippa to save him from the Gentiles, but then went on to appeal to Caesar in a way that guaranteed he'd get put deeper into the clutches of those same Gentiles, will no doubt warrant some even more contrived explanation in the future.

In the linked article above on Peter and Paul, we explained the "why" of Paul's claim that the distinction between Jew and Gentile has been erased. Our commentator blames Paul for this being at the root of so-called "replacement theology" as well as "all of Christian anti-Semitism that has been perpetrated against Jewish people throughout history" -- never mind that Matthew and John have been likewise accused of this by the equally contriving seeking to place blame. It remains that Paul gives us "supplemental theology" and not replacement theology, and if our commentator wants to blame Paul for how his words have been misused, then I will introduce him to some Skeptics who will cause him to abandon the words of Jesus as well.

Further on it is said the Paul "puts himself above Moses" by saying in 2 Cor. 3:12-13, "Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away".

How this puts Paul "above Moses" isn't explained; nor is it explained further why we are to believe those cited (Acts 21:21, etc.) as saying Paul was anti-Law. It is better to say, Paul was anti-old covenant, in light of the new one; for to be otherwise is to deny the effectuality of the new covenant, as our Peter vs. Paul article indicates. This sort of position we might expect to be misunderstood by the not-understanding (read: Paul's opponents, now and then) as "anti-Torah" but in fact it is not. Paul in his moral demands remains loyal to the essence of the Law; it is the Law as covenant that he rejects. (Our subject alludes then to Paul's lack of "spine" for being involved in a Nazarite rite; see link above on Paul vs Acts for an answer.)

Next up, our commentator joins Skeptics in regarding the prophet Agabus as being in error in his prediction about Paul; Agabus predicted that the Jews would deliver Paul to the Gentiles, and that is indeed what happened. Our subject's problem is that he misunderstands Jewish acts of prophetic symbolism: It is thought that for Agabus' prophecy to be fulfilled, Paul would literally have to have his hands tied by a Jew in person, but that is no more the case than that Zedekiah in the OT literally expected Ahab to go out and gore an army with a couple of horns. The Jews did "bind" Paul – in other words, they put him in a bind, because they were trying to kill him, and this caused Paul to have to be handed over to the Gentiles.

Our subject next rails upon Paul for his appeal to Caesar, from three directions. The first indicates a certain lack of chronological awareness:

Caesar!!! Of all the people to seek justice from Paul opts for appealing to the likes of Nero!! Nero! You know..., that blood thirsty tyrant who murdered untold numbers of innocent people including his own mother!! And Paul says that this is where he "ought to be judged"!

That "blood thirsty tyrant" Nero, however, at the time Paul made this appeal was not yet the blood thirsty tyrant he would become. As yet, he was no more "blood thirsty" than any other average Roman Emperor.

The second is yet another contextual error, as Paul is accused of "the height of hypocrisy" for he had previously told the Corinthians, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?... If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?... Now therefore, it is an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another, Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded?"

It doesn't take much to see that Paul's instructions have to do with matters of law with one believer against another – not the believer vs. the state.

Finally, it is asked, "...what ever happened to, ‘I am willing to die in Jerusalem for Christ'?" Somehow this is taken as just as good as, "I am willing to die, even if it is needlessly" and thus Paul is accused of cowardice for appealing to Caesar. Is a "good" martyr one that runs around looking for opportunities to die? Then why did Jesus tell those persecuted to flee to other cities?

One other question asked worth note is, "Where in the world was James? Why didn't he come to Paul's defense seeing he had ‘myriads' of observant Messianic Jews following his leadership? If it was all just a simple misunderstanding why didn't James straighten things out?"

However, it was not "just a simple misunderstanding" at all, and this is where our writer shows yet again lack of knowledge of the social constraints of the ancient world. Even assuming James COULD have defended Paul against the particular charge, for the sake of missions and relationships with the Jews of Jerusalem, it would have been in the greater interest – whether Paul was guilty or not – for James to remain out of the picture. However, being in Jerusalem, how did he have authority, from the point of view of a court, to say what Paul had been doing? And moreover, how could he defend Paul from charges that the Romans had yet to decide on?

Our writer closes this section with sarcastic implications that Paul got what he deserved from Nero when he made his appeal to Nero. In fact church tradition tells us that Paul did indeed get "much justice" – it is recorded that he was released from this imprisonment, and only later, when Nero did go mad, did he (and Peter) get executed.

Another chapter of our commentator's work is constrained to explain Peter's favorable view of Paul in 2 Peter, and thus it is argued that the prophecy of Jesus to Peter, "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you bound yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch forth your hands, and another will bind you and take you where you do not wish" (John 21:18), is not to be interpreted as a reference to Peter's death by crucifixion as scholarly commentators universally acknowledge and as John 21:19 indicates, but rather, we are told that it is a prophecy of how Paul would "bind" Peter (but doesn't that have to mean literally, per Agabus?) and mislead him ("take you where you do not wish"). The tortuous rationalizations taken to arrive at this view (as well as a similar re-interpretation of the prophecy about John himself) requires no comment, though it is worthwhile to check some of the comments designed to explain why this could not be a reference to Peter's death.

Our subject claims that "...thou shalt stretch forth thy hands..." is "hardly a picture of a crucifixion." Perhaps someone forgot to inform the Biblical scholar Ben Witherington about this, as well as the rest of the ancient world, for in his commentary on John he reports [356] that the phrase is a "common metaphor for crucifixion."

Our subject also says that "the chronological order of the events listed in the prophecy would be backwards if this were a picture of a crucifixion" which only shows how little our man knows about how crucifixion was done. In part his confusion arises from the use of the word "gird" which he takes to mean "dress", for he wonders who is "dressed" on a cross. The word used does indicate one who gets dressed, true enough (Acts 12:8), but the proper contextual reference is aided by such as the comment by an oracle of Apollo that referred to Jesus' death by crucifixion, described as a "death bound with iron."

Thus is Peter taken where he does not want to go: to the public display that was an ancient crucifixion, an extended process during which Peter was on display and shamefully abused. The order of events given in John matches exactly what we know about the crucifixion process, and thus the claim of strangeness of the order of events, as claimed, is eliminated.

After repeating the standard argument about 1 Cor. 9:20-22 making Paul a "chameleon" (see entry here), we embark now on a key issue of our commentator concerning Paul and the law. As noted above, such objections are erased by a proper understanding of the Jewish relation between faith and works; it is further negated by understanding faith as loytalty, rather than as the easy-believism our subject takes it to be.

Our writer, having consulted no scholarship on the matter, criticizes Paul's discussion of faith and works in Romans as something "those who believe in Paul have an extremely difficult time following" for Paul's "rambling flow of logic" – for some reason, Pauline scholars don't seem to have any sort of problem following Paul. But let's address the specific criticisms.

The first is that Romans 1:17 ("For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith'.") represents an idea that, "this faith that the just are supposed to live by is as opposed to living by the law."

That's not true in the least. Remembering that faith is loyalty, Paul here is actually standing against nomism – a belief that technical adherence to the law, irrespective of heart-loyalty, is what really matters. The faithful follow the law out of loyalty and gratitude – "as a man thinks, so he is."

This was indeed the message of the passage Paul quoted, Habakkuk 2:4, which our subject does rightly read as meaning, " The righteous person will survive if he is steadfast in his righteousness. " It is only because our man has a false understanding of what he calls "the phenomenon of faith" that he makes this error.

As an aside, Paul is here accused as well of "misquoting" Scripture because he does not get the passage exactly right; our subject is apparently unaware the nature of quotations in antiquity, which were seldom exact, and not required to be – and in any event, doesn't explain how this wrecks Paul's use of the verse.

Second, there is a repeat of the charge noted above about Romans 3:10. In an ironic turnabout, our commentator issues the reverse of a typical Skeptical objection and insists that Paul is wrong here because Noah, et al were indeed perfectly righteous. Again as well, Paul is accused of Scriptural abuse for stringing together passages from different OT books; a method used by rabbis of the time and considered fully acceptable – see here.

Our subject claims that in Psalms, where Paul gets the passage, the only referent is to atheist fools; but there were no such things as true atheists in David's day, so the reference is to those who say "there is no God" in their daily acts of sin – so that despite pretense, the passage is indeed a universal (and some rabbis believed this as well; Eccl. 7:20, moreover, repeats that very message – Morris, Romans commentary, 166). The dichotomy of "my people" in Psalms does not create a non-sinning righteous set of persons; it merely sets out the existence of another set of extant persons, with no indication that the groups are or are not mutually exclusive.

After further accusations against Paul for exegeting Scripture in a way normal to his time, as even Jesus did (see link above), we are left to ask if indeed our subject can suggest someone who was actually "righteous" in the perfect sense he decrees; he appeals to Noah, per Gen. 7:1, and our answer is the same as in the link above, though he does not mention Noah's later fall from grace lying naked in his tent drunk. Nevertheless, we observe the irony in the recommendation that we "[t]ake an exhaustive concordance and look for yourself under the word righteous" so that we can find out that there were indeed perfectly righteous people, and Skeptics who read these passages in the same light.

Next up, it is alleged that we have a "blasphemous lie" in Romans 3:19-20:

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that (for this purpose) every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Our subject asks, "Are we really to believe that it's God's purpose to make man guilty before Him? If God intentionally made His law impossible for man to keep, that would make God the author of unrighteousness and guilt!"

Apparently our subject thinks that morals and rules do not exist apart from writing them down. Paul's words are properly understood on legal terms: In other words, no one can say, at judgment, "there's no law against it," for all God will have to do is point to the law and say, "oh yes, there is." It is not as our subject seems to think Paul saying, that the Law was created expressly to create sin.

In reply our subject claims he has "God's version of why He gave man the law" but to find it, he must quote Deut. 5:29 and add the words in parentheses: "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that (for this purpose) it might be well with them and with their children forever!" The same is done to Deut. 6:24-5, but the words "for this purpose" are simply not there; they are his own addition. One cannot justify any claim that the Law was made for the purpose of things being able to go well with the Israelites, a chain of logic that makes no sense at all and finds no parallel in legal history.

Further on, Romans 3:27-8 ("Where is boasting then? It is excluded, By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.") is by some means grasped as in error, with the comment, "Never mind the fact that it is an important part of the law for man to know his place and humble himself!"

That may be as it may, but Paul is writing within a specific context, of Jewish pride over having the law and looking down upon Gentiles as unworthy to be members of God's kingdom. He is right that, "[i]f people kept all the law they wouldn't be boasting anyway" – and that is precisely the point.

After more generalization about Paul's doctrine being "the source of far more pride and arrogance than any other doctrine" we have the standard appeals to Paul's alleged egotism in 2 Cor. 11 (see here for a corrective) and Gal. 2:6-9 (see Petee vs Paul item for corrective). We also have a rather odd claim that "[a]nyone who believes in the concept off [sic] destiny, and that God before creation destined some vessels for honor and some for dishonor (Romans 9:20-23), and believes he is one who is destined for honor, it is unavoidable, they will be extremely conceited in their hearts." How that is so is hard to see, but our subject could use some instruction in ancient values of speech such as found here. He might also consider that such a belief was the universal sentiment of all ancient peoples, as well as a great many peoples today, who ascribe the run of their lives to fate/or predestination. Thus we may suppose our subject to be saying that the majority of the world all through history (except him) is extremely conceited, and we would like to humbly remind you of this fact.

The final effort we will consider as a whole is the exercise over James vs Paul on faith. Our answer is already found in links above on the definition of faith, and James vs Paul, and Semitic Totality; the dichotomy our subject imagines between Paul and James simply does not exist, but even so he supposes that James, though he did better with the argument, was so dazzled and befuddled by Paul that he even blew it on some minor points. James and Paul both quote from Genesis and quote it the same, exact way. The bind this puts our subject in is obvious; he has already disrespected Paul for "misquoting" the OT as above, and now that James does the same, how can he not disrespect James as well?

Sure enough, by contrivance, Paul manages to be blamed somehow: Since it is argued, James is rebutting Paul, here is what must have happened:

My guess is that James had copies of Paul's letters in front of him when he wrote his letter and he mistakenly assumed Paul had quoted Genesis accurately because it sounded very close to what he remembered of it. So he used Paul's quote and went about refuting Paul's doctrine on other logical grounds...If James had gone down to the local Synagogue and scrolled through the book of Genesis to see if Paul's quote was perfectly accurate, he no doubt would have dealt with Paul's doctrine much differently.

So there you have it: A conspiracy that erases all need for scholarship on things like quotation methods in antiquity, the true definition of faith, and the true nature of the (non-)exchange between Paul and James. (The real reason James and Paul make this "mistake" is something out subject would not guess – that both James and Paul were quoting the equitably authoritative LXX version of Gen. 15:6.)

But eager to find more problems by any means, our subject insists there is some issue of difference between this version used by Paul and James, and the "real" version. The difference is that the Hebrew version says:

Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the Lord, and he accounted it to him for righteousness.

...whereas the LXX says, "and he accounted it to him."

What's the difference conceptually? There is none to speak of; but our subject creates one, and insists that the "he" isn't a reference to God – as if anyone else would be crediting anything to Abraham in the story? No, by our subject's Paul meant to use "he" deliberately as a way to say that – wait for it – Abraham was crediting faith to himself, from himself – which was also presumably what the LXX was intending to say as well.

We are given Genesis 26:3-5:

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; BECAUSE Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My Laws.

Our commenator protests, "Nowhere does God say anything to Isaac about Abraham's faith! The promises were all given because of Abraham's works!"

The failure here is the same as a Skeptic on the issue of the land promise – yes, the promise to have possession (reservation of use) of the land was based on Abraham's faith (his loyalty, which was expressed by his works, and by Jewish thinking, indivisible from it); but to stay in the land would also require faith (loyalty, expressed inevitably in works).

If our commentator has problems figuring on this, let us ask him whether God would have let Isaac remain in the land if Isaac had started worshipping Baal, and had gone on to start a string of bordellos in Palestine. Actually Isaac may have indeed been allowed to stay – given Jewish history, it would be his descendants who would be exiled, as God in His mercy allowed for time to repent. Nevertheless the bit about references to Isaac's "faith" lacking is misdirected from multiple directions.

There follows a lack of grasp of the concept of original sin as described by Paul, and criticisms that fail to grasp that Paul speaks in Romans against nomism, not against works as works. Paul is furthermore criticized again for exegeting passages in a way perfectly normal for rabbis of his day (see link above). The remainder is mostly of the same lack; suffice to rebut this with this telling word from our commentator:

Anyone who is obedient and walks humbly with God can have all the faith in the world that God will provide the fringe benefits He promised. This is where true faith exists! Now doesn't this sound so much more simple and right? Even a child can grasp this picture. But one has to spend many years in seminary before they can even pretend to comprehend Paul's convoluted mess.

One is tempted to say that this is indeed a picture that ONLY a child could draw...nevertheless the key error is in the first sentence. Our commentator makes works the source of faith; the fact is, the relationship is the other way around. Our subject also fails to grasp the nature of grace, which to the ancients was a component of a covenantal relationship – one in which favor is given to one who could otherwise not obtain it.

However, grace as such is received only by those already in, or being offered, some sort of covenant relationship with the patron – thus Genesis 6:7-9, which speaks of Noah finding "grace in the eyes of the Lord," indicates someone already having faith/loyalty and therefore producing works on that basis – not, as our commentator supposes, someone who is just and righteous irrespective of faith.

In close, our commentator issues some comments on Sabbath-keeping, to which this is our reply; more about how we can preserve morals under his illicit view of Paul's "easy believism" is answered by links above.

And what more needs be said? Like others who draw a picture of Paul with a black eye and glasses, our commentator makes no effort at serious study, and even seems pleased that he has not. He bears no understanding of the texts beyond what his surface reading allows. Let that speak for itself in close.