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Paul the Pharisee

Acts 23:6 has Paul, arrested and on trial before the Sanhedrin, admitting that he is “a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee.” Pharisaism was a lay movement, centred on study of the Torah.  The only movement that survived the final overthrow of the temple and temple based system was Pharisaic movement. Thus we should expect most of the jews in despersion were Pharisaic given to the obedience and observation of jews..


 Here are a few things which Paul inherited as a Pharisee:

Every Pharisee had to teach his son a trade by which he could live— Paul was taught the skill of Tent making.  Paul supported himself.  He continued in his business to support himself even during his missionary journey.   See Acts 18:3-20; 1 Corinthians 4:12  


A good Pharisee should be the husband of one wife and strictly adherents to sex within marriage.  During the ministry Paul never took a wife with him.  1 Cor 9:5, Paul says: "Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?"  Since he claimed to be a Pharisee many believe that he was  married at one time, his wife likely passed away  and that he remained unmarried.  In  Paul  1 Cor 7:1-7 he declares his celibacy status.  This is deduced from the statement 1 Cor 7:8-9 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” 

Being a Roman citizen of Tarsus he had the opportunity to excel in the study of philosophy  for which Tarsus was famed for. . Paul was a rich Roman. (Acts. 24:26) and he could afford a good education. 

At about age 14, Paul was sent to Jerusalem  for his higher studies in Jewish theology. Paul came to study in Jerusalem under Rambaan Gamaliel  when Shammai became Nasi of the Sanhedrin and the rise to supremacy of the house of (Beit) Shammai in AD 20.


Rabban Gamaliel


Rabbinical teacher, the mentor of St. Paul, Gamaliel was a teacher of the teachers (Professor) and was there in Jerusalem from the birth of Jesus.  Like Joseph and Mary, he was also a descendant of King David.  Mishna, Pesahim 88, states that he was an "advisor to the king" and must have been present probably when the Magi came searching for the King of the Jews to the Palace of the King and was a member of the Sanhedrin at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus as the nasi (President) of the Sanhedrin.  However he seems to be missing all through the court sessions of Jesus. Because of this, some doubt that whether he was indeed the President of the Sanhedrin at that time.  We should expect him to have had the first hand information regarding the report on the resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of the  “Way” from its inception.  He finally was forced to counsel the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and enforce the release St. Peter and other apostles. (Acts 5:38-39).  However there is documental evidence that Gamaliel did sent at least three epistles, designed as notifications of new religious rulings, which portray Gamaliel as the head of the Jewish body for religious-law pertaining to the Levitical Tithing and Jewish calendar settings. .

The Babylonian Talmud names Gamaliel as the third person among five-generation dynasty of Manassite chiefs who became nasi- the president of the Sanhedrin - the highest executive body of Jewish religion. . Gamaliel's Grandfather, Hillel, and Gamaliel himself were president of the Sanhedrin.    Mishna goes to the extent of stating, ”Since Gamaliel the Elder died, reverence for the law has ceased and purity and moderation are vanished.”  His  Grandson  Gamaliel II  helped consolidate Judaism after the Jewish war in AD 66-70.

According to Photius, he was baptized by Saint Peter and Saint John, together with his son and with Nicodemus. The Clementine Literature, suggest that he maintained secrecy about the conversion, and continued to be a member of the  Sanhedrin.

consisting of under robe, mantle & turban. Red, gold & white combination.


The Kober of Gamaliel

Under the tutelage of Gamaliel, Shaul turned out as a self-righteous Pharisee and a patriotic zealot--Acts 22:3  His zeal made him to be a persecutor of Christians--Acts 7:58; 8:3-22; 26:9-11   It should be assumed that the spirit of discerning and testing which was in Gamaliel remained in Shaul, which must have been the final reason for his conversion to Christianity,  Gamaliel’s advise was:   “If [the Gospel] be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God.”  

Shaul’s qualifications at this point were:

·        A Greek Scholar

·        A Hebrew Scholar

·        A Scholar in the Jewish Law

·        An Aristocratic Roman Citizen of fortune.


Shaul:  Man of Three Worlds

·        Jew

·        Born in Hellenic Culture

·        Roman Citizen


He was therefore the perfect candidate for the transmission of the Gospel into Greco-Roman culture from the Hebrew culture,

Principles of Missiology
The Gospel of Incarnation


Go ye, into all the nations and Preach the Gospel

that the Word became flesh.

The redemptive process of man includes primarily the spreading of the Word.  When we talk about the Word we are actually talking about the expression of God in creation.  God being beyond comprehension and expressible, the only way we could comprehend God is through God’s Word.  The word in its abstractness is also incomprehensible.  That is why the Word will have to take flesh in specific form so that it can be understood.  This is the basis of Incarnation.  The problem goes still further as God tries to express himself to man.  Man understands communication based on the culture in which he lives.  Culture is a compendium of verbal and non-verbal system of embedded communication standard.  So when God wants to express himself to man he had to make a choice.  Though God talks to people in all cultures, the final fuller expression came through Jesus as the incarnation in the Hebrew Culture.  Thus the gospel was initially shrouded in the terms and norms of the Hebrew culture.  Jesus lived in Palestine, among the Jews and taught and lived and died and rose again among the Jewish context. 

The gospel was initially embedded in the Hebrew culture.

Since the gospel was for the whole creation – man and beast and whole created world - the great commission was to re-encode the incarnation message into other cultures. 

Mar 16:15  And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.

God was on the look out for an expert in two cultures to effect this transition.  Shaul was the right choice for this purpose because, he was at home in both the Hebrew and the Greco-Roman (Greek and Roman) cultures.  Remember that was the predominant culture of that time.

The mission was to transcribe this into other cultures.  What Paul did was just that.

From there it was implanted in various neighboring cultures. Far away from the Greco-Roman culture.


his Greco-Roman culture because of being the predominant political and cultural forces of the period had penetrated into all neighboring cultures.  As a result the gospel penetrated deep into the neighboring cultures.  This then is the story of  translation of salvation message into many cultures.  Other Apostles had to penetrate into other cultures, acculturate themselves and then implant the message.  One such example was that of Thomas ministry in India.

St. Thomas traveled as far as India and embedded the gospel in the Indian culture.


The Beginning of Redemption


The incarnation of Jesus into the mortal body was just the beginning of the Plan of redemption.  It culminated in the seed of redemption being planted in the corruptible physical world.  In a world where corruption is the law, something strange happened in the burial cave of Jesus.  Suddenly the corruptible had given  place to the incorruptible. Jesus rose from the dead.  From now on another law has come in existence through the new creation.


1 Corinthians 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.   

And Jesus indeed was the first fruit from which the seed of new creation was to follow.  The great commission was the distribution of this new seed in the whole world,

"One who believes in the Son has eternal life,
but one who disobeys the Son won't see life,
but the wrath of God remains on him." John 3:36



Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.  So they did after being empowered from heaven by the Holy Spirit during the Pentecost.

Act 2:3-4  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.




Act 2:36  Peter said: Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

In Jerusalem

Act 2:44  And all who believed were together and had all things in common


and the Jerusalem experiment started


Christian Commune


The words Kuriakos and Ecclesia used extensively in relation to Church make sense only in terms of the early Church Community which was the germ of the teaching of Jesus himself.

But this dream did not come true because of the sinfulness of man exemplified by the presence of Ananias and Saphira,

Jerusalem Experiment

and the Jews refused to accept the mesiaship of Jesus and ended the election of the Jews as the priests to the nations.  The stoning of Stephen was the last expression of the rejection.

Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:59)

This resulted in a change of plan in the plan of redemption.


Change of Plan?

God’s plan of redemption started long before the call of Israel.


So God did call other nations to be his witness and to be the priests to the nations,

First it was the Ethiopians.  Then came the Philistines, and then the Syrians.  When all those failed, Plan D was the election of Israel.  When Jesus came, he directed the entire plan based on the Jewish witness.

"Go not into the way of the Gentiles....but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  (Matthew 10:7)

Plan D:  No, the gospel is not to be preached to the Gentiles and Samaritans.

Mt.10:5-6; Mt.15:24 


But now that too failed


Plan E:  Yes, the gospel is to be preached to everyone, including the Gentiles and Samaritans

Mt.28:19; Mk.16:15; Acts 15:3; Acts 15:3; Acts 22:21; Acts 28:28


The Change of Plan


Until that time the Peter was in charge of the Project.  It was time to tell Peter that the plan of action has changed.  This was done in

Act 10:1-8, 24-48

Peter, We have a change of Plan

An Apostle to the Gentile selected

Act 9:1-20  But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest     and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.   Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.     And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"     And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."     The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.     Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.     And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.     Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani'as. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Anani'as." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."     And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying,     and he has seen a man named Anani'as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight."     But Anani'as answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem;   and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name."     But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;     for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."     So Anani'as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."   And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized,     and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus.     And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, "He is the Son of God."


Saul on the way to Damascus

According to Josephus, Damascus was founded by Uz, grandson of Shem who was the son of Noah



Capital of modern Syria.

"The Pearl of the East",

Damascus is an ancient and important city of Syria, standing at over 2,000 feet in a large oasis. It is one of the city-states of The Decapolis, and a great centre of trade. (Acts 9:19 – 25)           


New Project Manager recruited


3 Days of Paul

Act 9:9  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Rom 6:4  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Kinesat Hanaiya (Chapel of Ananias) in the Christian Quarter of the Old City; reputedly the place where Ananias laid his hands on Saul to restore his eyesight

According to Paul's own account in his Letter to the Galatians 1:17, he then went away to Arabia, before returning to Damascus.


Some scholars believe that Paul went to Sinai Mountains itself like Moses and Elijah to commune with God.  It is here probably he was taken up into the third heavens and was briefed into his new job.



Briefing of the New CEO

"I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven" (2 Cor. 12:2)

The exact location of this Sinai in Arabia is still disputed.  Traditional mount of Sinai was decided at the time of  Constantine.  However archeologists consider other locations as possible too. Paul speaks of the location as:

Gal 4:25 "Now this Hagar is Mt. Sinai in Arabia,...". 

Paul’s understanding of Arabia would have been one that was consistent with Old Testament passages like 1 Kings 10:15, 2 Chronicles 9:14, Isaiah 21:13, Jeremiah 25:24, and Ezekiel 27:21, in which Arabia is clearly identified with the region east of the Gulf of Aqaba, where “kings” ruled and the “Dedanites” co-dwelt with other nomadic peoples.   Jebel Al-Lawz was one of the candidates.


An alternate possible  location which is suggested where Paul went in to hiding is the  Petra in Nabotea. 





Hebrew Cosmology


The Third Heaven

"I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago,
 (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell:
God knoweth;)
such an one caught up to the third heaven"
(2 Cor. 12:2)


It is to be assumed that Paul met with God himself and was given the charge as an Apostle to the Gentiles.  The third heaven is to be understood in terms of the Hebrew cosmology.  It is the tradition that side by side with the written laws received by Moses there were also revelations transmitted orally.  This is the basis of Kaballah and Hebrew cosmology.  The structure of the cosmos is represented as a tree or as a man.  It is shown below.


Apart from the unknown realm wherein the unknowable Supreme God exists, the knowable realm is divided into four dimensions.  The Lowest realm is the material realm where the known life forms. Exist.  Above this level the three Heavens include: Mental Realm, Spiritual Realm and the Divine Realm.  In those various realms, various forms of  sentient beings exists which are generally known as Spiritual beings,  But in the Divine level only the divine beings alone exist which apart from the Unique Trinity only the children of God can enter.  This then is the third heaven into which Paul went wherein he had a direct contact with the Trinity – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, The combined Trinity which forms the One God  forms the unknown realm.

Text Box: Infinite Unknown
Atziluth, -The Divine Realm - the world of emanation
Briah, - The Spiritual Realm - the world of creation
Yetzirah, - The Mental Realm - world of formation
Assiah, - The Material Realm or the Kingdom - the world of action or making.    

The Four Worlds

Kabbalists believe the manifestation of our material world was caused by the immanent activity of God on four different planes, or in four worlds, simultaneously. 

The first world is called Atziluth, -The Divine Realm - the world of emanation, and represents the Manifestation of Divine Thought. This is the highest Heaven – the Third Heaven.  It is in this world where God manifests himself in the form of the archetypes (Kether, Chokmah and Binah).  This is where the Holy Trinity appears as distinct persons.  It was the  union of Father God with his Shekhinah (his feminine counterpart) the Holy Spirit  that produced the creation process of the three worlds which follow.   It is here the Sons of God reside and the hope of the redeemed mankind as Children of God.  It is here Paul was taken up and was summoned and commissioned for his mission.

The second world, the world of creation, is called Briah, - The Spiritual Realm -  and represents God's Moral Power.  It is here where the Merkabah takes form.  It is also in this world that the highest ranking angels and the pure spirits  reside.

The world of formation, Yetzirah, - The Mental Realm -  is the third of these worlds.  Yetzirah represents God's Reproductive or Creative Power.  Angelic hosts reside in this world, 

The fourth world is known as Assiah, - The Material Relm or the Kingdom - the world of action or making

 There are beings that reside in each realm and others that reside in other realms in extension.  These are represented often by persons within persons.   Man being the ultimate creation of man is supposed to be residing in all four dimensions.  But after the fall, mankind was in quarantine within the three lower dimensions until the time of final redemption when they will occupy the whole four dimensions as part of the body of Christ.


Gal 1:1  Paul an apostle--not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--


1Ti 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,


Corinthians 12:7. 'And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.'