I received the following question from a reader:
Tim, this really has nothing to do with end time but do you consider Paul the first false apostle? Or is it just another fear tactic by the enemy to even consider it?
It’s about time I answered this question with a post since I’ve been answering it for years by email.
The Good Challenge of Wacky New Ideas
I can tell you have been on the internet lately! That’s where ideas like “Paul is a false apostle” or “the earth is flat” spread. It’s certainly challenging. To be clear, I am not down on anyone believing either idea. These ideas challenge our discernment which is a good thing to grow your critical thinking. The Internet is truly the gift that keeps on giving with such benefits.
So, no, it’s not bad to consider it…in the end. But in the beginning and middle, it can indeed give you a good scare and shake your faith or drive you crazy trying to refute it.
Mostly I hear this idea from Torah Keepers because Paul in Galatians and many other passages calls Torah Keeping for believers bondage and heresy.
Paul the False Apostle?
The trouble with the arguments against Paul is that you can indeed find contradictions in the Bible if you look. For example, the Gospels record the healing of the blind man near Jericho differently. In Mark and Matthew, Jesus does this when leaving Jericho; in Luke it’s when he’s approaching Jericho. Matthew also has a second similarly worded account of a blind man healing that seems to take place in Galilee.
The point is, you can find even legitimate contradictions in the Bible, which means it’s not hard to build a case, legitimate, or otherwise, that Paul contradicted Jesus or Moses. It’s the nature of the Bible. Yet, the same verses used to prove “Paul is a false apostle” can also be harmonized to make Paul a true apostle who teaches consistent to the rest of the Bible.
People who want to discredit Paul are using the same approach that atheists use to discredit the Bible, pointing to the inconsistencies, to show things are not really inspired. If you want to discredit Paul with this approach, then you are also giving validity to discrediting the Bible or other Bible books.
Christian apologists answer the atheists by harmonizing the contradictions and showing that the inconsistencies are small and not consequential to the message of the Bible. Likewise with the arguments against Paul, you can go out and find explanations for why they don’t really matter. Google is your friend. No need to figure all this out yourself. I use Google every day to deal with the assortment of questions readers ask me.
In the end, what evidence and arguments you choose to focus on will determine where you fall on the Paul validity question…and the Bible validity question.
In the meantime, try not to let it bother you before you get to a definitive conclusion. We’re not being judged by God on our ability to answer such questions. Most people in history have never heard of Paul or had his writings to even read, so it’s clearly not a salvation issue what you do with Paul. On the other hand, his writings are full of great wisdom that would be a shame purposely ignore out of a fear of being deceived.
What is a salvation issue is loving your neighbor as yourself, in faith to God (Mt 19:17-19). The rest is details.