Printed from http://tektonics.org/scheik01.php
This is a review of an item authored by one Ken Schei entitled Christianity Betrayed: The Name of the Beast (666) Revealed. You may at first think this is one of those books identifying Prince Charles or Mikhail Gorbachev as the antichrist, but you'd be wrong. Schei is not even a Christian, but a Skeptic; and he is not a Biblical scholar, but an airline pilot who did research in a way we might therefore expect, by going through the Bible and a few reference texts, and drawing his own conclusions.
The book begins with the idea that, because Revelation uses the number 666, a number whose constituent elements (3 numbers 6s) can be scrambled in any order and still remain the same number, "it is logical to assume" that the author of Revelation may have used 666 "to represent a person whose name had been changed but whose purpose (value) remained unchanged." And from this "logic" is drawn the conclusion that 666 is none other than Paul (formerly Saul), who was actually an infiltrator who ruined true Christianity. (As we show here Nero is a far better candidate.)
What follows is mostly a mix of arguments that are nothing new to us on this site, mixed in with quotes from non-biblical scholars (Thomas Jefferson, George Bernard Shaw, Will Durant) and unsupported "most scholars say" appeals. Some examples of the sort of arguments we encounter:
- An entire chapter is devoted to repeating Paul's classic sample of Greco-Roman rhetorical sarcasm in 2 Corinthians, which Schei reads as a literal confession of Paul's actual dishonesty
- the Clementine Recognitions is regarded as a reliable document (not as a late, fourth century, unreliable record)
- late (second-century) Ebionite documents with an anti-Paul tone are taken as reliable as well
Proof that Paul actually corrupted Christ's teachings is rather thin. Supposedly Jesus taught a loving religion that was in opposition to the OT; but what about all those teachings Jesus offered about hell and judgment and damnation? We aren't told, but hints are dropped that some of the Gospel writers (esp. Luke and Mark) sided with Paul and added things to Jesus' teachings. The only direct evidence of malfeasance by Paul is offered in two comparisons.
The first, a comparison of Matt. 5:43-5 and Romans 12:20:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
We are told here that "Paul advocates what he calls love in order to defeat one's enemies" and thereby "undoes Christ's work and returns us to the pre-Christ era." [41-2]
Really? As Klassen shows in his article "Coals of Fire: Sign of Repentance or Revenge?" (New Testament Studies 9, 1963, 337-50) the phrase in Proverbs is alluding to an Egyptian ritual of repentance in which the subject willingly carried embers in a bowl on their head as a public sign of repentance. It is unlikely that people in NT times were aware of this detail, but the Targum commentaries Paul would have been familiar with did still grasp that the person in Proverbs was a former enemy who had been turned into a friend.
The second offering compares Matt. 5:38-9 with Romans 12:19:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Here we are told that Christ "directly contradicts" the OT and that his command is "cleverly undone by Paul" -- but as the "right cheek" context tells us (along with study of relevant source material), what Christ contradicts here is the false application of the OT to personal matters, when the original law was made in the context of vested authorities delivering equitable punishments. Christ is not contradicting the OT, but a wayward application of it; Paul is not "undoing" anything said by Christ but is reminding people not to take personal vengeance, just as Jesus did -- and pointing out, as Jesus did in other contexts, that God's judgment for sin will eventually come upon people who do wrong.
In sum, Schei's attempt to disallow Paul is poorly supported.