Sha'ul / Paul - The maligned, misunderstood, and misinterpreted Emissary
Probably no other person ever to live has been more maligned, misunderstood, and misinterpreted than Sha'ul / Paul.
Sha'ul is the brunt of resentment and outright hatred in some quarters. Many Jewish Groups see him as a Jew turned traitor, who converted to a foreign religion that has persecuted Jews for almost 2000 years. Some that believe in Yeshua as Messiah totally reject all of his writings based on their seemingly Anti-Torah basis (Ebonites to give an example).
While this view is one of the easiest to follow (maligning someone takes little effort or understanding), is it accurate?
"Paul left Judaism and became a Christian". This is a widely held belief, in both Judaism and Christianity. There is only one problem, it is not true. Paul, whose Hebrew name is Sha'ul, called himself a Jew and a Pharisee long after he began following Messiah Yeshua. Many do not realize he continued to go to the Temple and make sacrifice after he believed on Yeshua.
To claim Sha'ul the Jew became Paul the Christian is based on ignorance of his continued life as a Jew and is Scripturally and historically inaccurate. Sha'ul remained Sha'ul the Jew for his entire life. When dealing with Gentiles and introducing them to the G-d of Israel and His Messiah, he used Paul (his Roman name) as it was less foreign and more respected. Was he being two-faced then? G-d forbid! No, he was meeting the person where they were at, so they would be open to the message.
Sha'ul's (Paul's) writings cannot be interpreted correctly outside their cultural (Jewish) and historical context. Paul was so misinterpreted even in his own day that Kefa (Peter) said that 'his writings are difficult and hard to understand', and 'many are misusing them to their own destruction'. If Peter was saying Paul's writings were leading unstable people to destruction at the time of their writing; how much worse could it be today, almost 2000 years later.
Paul's writings are the basis for the antinomian (anti-Torah) basis for almost every group today. This leads to a real problem - If Messiah says to keep the commandments (Torah) and Paul says not too, who wins? Who will we listen to? More importantly, who has the Authority to make a ruling like that?
Sha'ul (Paul), as we will learn during our new teaching series on Romans, was a Jew amongst Jews; who never stopped being a Jew. Nor did he found a new religion called Christianity. He was a Emissary of Yeshua sent out to bring the good news to the Gentile world. He never told Jews to stop circumcising, stop eating kosher, or stop keeping Shabbat; for he himself did all these things (see Timothy).
What he did do was uphold the teaching that a Gentile did not have to become a Jew to be saved.