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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

The Anti-Vegan Paul was Never a Real Jew. By Dr. Robert M. Price. Ed. Dr. Chapman Chen

Excerpt: ANOTHER point on which Hyam Maccoby (1991) and Robert Eisenman (2012) coincide is their willingness to take seriously the Ebionite charge that Paul was never a real Jew to begin with. Maccoby shows quite extensively in his Paul and Hellenism that the Pauline Epistles give precious little evidence of having been written by a Jew, what with their anti-Semitic outbursts, their Mystery Religion affinities, their Gnosticizing exegesis, and their utterly non-Jewish view of the Torah as a burden. Eisenman enhances his case by adducing the evidence for Paul's Herodian background, something we really do not have to read too far between the lines to see, given his Roman citizenship, his kinship to one Herodion and to the household of Aristobulus.

If this is what the Ebionites meant, that Paul was as little a Jew as Herod the Great despite his pretense, then we have a scenario more natural than that which the Ebionite charge might otherwise imply: the idea of Paul as some sort of Greek pagan entering Judaism superficially and from without. As Eisenman notes, Paul protests that he is a Hebrew, an Israelite, even a Benjaminite, but he avoids calling himself a Jew! And Eisenman suggests that, given the strange fact that "Bela" appears both as a chief clan of Benjamin and as the first Edomite king, "Benjaminite" may have been a kind of Herodian euphemism for their oblique relation to Judaism.

Eisenman cites the Talmud's notice that the Rechabites (=Nazirites) used to marry the daughters of the High Priests. Though Eisenman does not make the particular connection I am about to make, this Talmudic note suggests to me a new and more natural way of understanding the Ebionite slur that Paul had converted to Judaism only because he was smitten with the High Priest's daughter and wanted to curry favor with her father to win her hand. Now think of Acts' account of Paul's unsuccessful ruse, feigning Nazirite allegiance by paying for the purification of four of James' zealots (Acts 21:23-26), which backfired on him and led to (as F. C. Baur recognized) rioting by James' "zealots for the Law" (not some vacationing Jews from Asia Minor, as Luke would have it) over Paul's attempt to profane the Temple (vv 27-30).

As this use of money to pay for the four men's purification rites seems to be a variant version of the presentation, and rejection, of the Collection (cf. Rom 15:31), we may suspect that this final rebuff of Paul as a would-be Nazirite, this decisive rejection of Paul's attempt to curry favor with the party of James, has been figuratively rendered in later Jamesian (i.e., Ebionite) propaganda as Paul's frustrated attempt to do what Nazirites did, marry the daughter of the High Priest! Why choose this particular metaphor for Paul as a false prophet? Because of the resonances of the suitor as a seducer (of Israel), a deceiver and false prophet (cf., 2 Cor 11:1-5, where Paul turns precisely the same charge back on the Jerusalem "super-apostles").

Source: Price, Robert M. (1997). "Robert Eisenman's JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS: A Higher-Critical Evaluation", Institute for Higher Critical Studies, DrewUniversity.

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