Apostle Paul, the great confuser-in-chief and “messianic rabbi Shaul”
Neither consistency nor his ability to explain were Apostle Paul’s strong points. Take these few gems of his for example:
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6)
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law, though I myself am not under the law, so as to win those under the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20)
Numerous excuses for Paul are offered by messianics (who prefer to see Paul as “rabbi Shaul”) these days and I’ve heard them all (and even used them myself in my messianic days). “It’s not Torah that Paul meant, it’s “law of sin”. Or, “it’s not Torah, it’s the Jewish “legalism” he was against”, or “law of Christ is Torah too”, etc. Even if Paul somehow didn’t mean what he said, the way he said it is how his later disciples who came to understand him. Not just this verse, but many things he has written. Not thousands of years later, but in the very beginning of Christianity’s development. How early was the poor Paul “misunderstood”? Even the book of Acts, a whitewashing work of a Pauline apologist written at the end of first century (or even the beginning of the second, according to some scholars), records that this is how Jews in the first century understood Paul, which means that he was widely known even among Jewish Christians to be teaching against Torah from the very beginning!
Eusebius, a famous Church father, had this to report about the Jewish Christians’ view of Paul:
“These men, moreover, thought that it was necessary to reject all the epistles of the apostle [Paul], whom they called an apostate from the law; and they used only the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews and made small account of the rest.” (325 CE, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.27)
In sum, we can sit here two thousand years later and revise history and pretend that all the Christian antagonism toward Judaism and Mosaic Covenant arose in a vacuum instead of drawing its support from the New Testament and especially the writings of Paul. Or, we can review evidence in regards to Jewish Christians who lived much closer to the time of Jesus, Paul and early Jewish Christianity – they seem to have been in a far better position to judge Paul for who he truly was than we are today.
Reading Paul’s own words in the NT is the best starting point to judge his true views on Torah. I used to make excuses for him in my messianic days, even when what he clearly wrote couldn’t have been come from a pen of a Torah-observant, faithful Jew. His comparison of the Mosaic Covenant to Hagar, slavery and those who are under it to slaves (Galatians 4:22-26) alone should give any thinking person a pause.