When I composed my historic novel about Paul the apostle (A Wretched Man

),  I wrestled through some thorny historical inquiries, consisting of this one. Last month, I was asked to read and also evaluation Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist.  I once again encountered the question, and also I uncovered Ehrman’s answer to be much less than convincing.

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First, some background. Paul twice discussed his function as persecutor yet without any type of details. Similar to a lot of his composing, Paul assumed his listeners currently knew the story so he didn’t intricate. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be dubbed an apostle, bereason I persecuted the church of God. 1 Cor 15:9 (NRSV)

In the the majority of autobiographical of his works, Paul speaks to the Galatians,

You have heard, no doubt, of my previously life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to damage it. Gal 1:13 (NRSV)

In neither circumstances, does Paul offer a clue regarding what he did, exactly, or why he did it.

Of course, the Acts of the Apostles goes right into a lot better detail: Jerusalem persecution, stoning of Stephen, sent out to Damascus by the High Priest to arrest the followers of Jesus, etc.

The prevalent presumption is that Paul persecuted the beforehand followers of Jesus because they declared he was the long-expected messiah. Does that really make sense? Why would such a case have been offensive to Paul or the Hebrew populace? While that might have been the reason why the Romans and also their puppets, the High Priest and his crowd, feared Jesus and brought about his execution, that hardly describes why Paul and the populace would certainly have persecuted his followers after his death.

Ehrmale initially agrees,

Tbelow was nopoint blasphemous about calling a Jewish teacher the messiah. That taken place on and also off throughout the history of Judaism, and also it still happens in our day. In itself, the claim that someone is the messiah is not blasphemous or, necessarily, problematic (though it may strike outsiders—and typically does—as a little crazed).

This statement strikes me as eminently reasonable and also debunks the conventional assumption that the early church was persecuted because they asserted Jesus had been the messiah. Tbelow has to be more to it.

Ehrman’s response is that the insurance claim that Jesus was the crucified messiah is what significantly offfinished Paul and also the others, bereason no strain of typical Jewish messianic expectations suggested a crucified messiah. While that may well be true, I fail to check out the offense. Here is wright here I component via Ehrmale. If anypoint, such a claim would certainly only make its proponents sound even crazier yet hardly blasphemous to the suggest of widespread persecution and arremainder.

Back to Stephen.

What did Stephen do or say that caused his arremainder and also execution? Why did they “stir up the world against him”? Due to the fact that he spoke “blasphemous words against God and also Moses,” “versus this holy area and the regulation,” and because he sassist that Jesus would “ruin this place and also will certainly readjust the custom-mades that Moses handed dvery own.”

No where was tright here any type of complaint that he declared Jesus was the messiah, crucified or not. The charges against him were that he denied the standard tenets of Hebrew religion … adherence to the legislation of Moses and holy place sacrifice. In Stephen’s long speech to the Sanhedrin, he concluded,

“You stiff-necked civilization, uncircumcised in heart and ears … You are the ones that got the legislation as ordained by angels, and yet you have actually not preserved it.”

Tbelow might be no better offense than to question circumcision and faientice to store the regulation. Stephen challenged the standard Hebrew self-expertise and also hence their standing before God. To a devout Pharicheck out, zealous for the regulation, as Paul declared to be, this was the crux of the matter. This would additionally tie in very closely via Paul’s Damascus road experience, in which his life took a 180 degree turn away from zealoattempt for the law to his law-free gospel message. Additionally, it likewise ties in via the ongoing dispute between Paul and also the “mommy church” earlier in Jerusalem over the requirements of circumcision and also dietary niceties.

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That’s my answer, Professor Ehrman’s opinion notwithstanding, and also that was likewise the answer I proposed in the Wretched Man novel.