In Tabor’s book a number of compelling scholarly points are raised. The first is that it was never Paul’s original charter, granted by the Jerusalem leadership - the Original Apostles – to share the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth to the non-Jews and in turn create a separate faith, outside of Judaism. Instead these Gentiles were people coming to Jewish temples with the goal of embracing the monotheistic belief that Judaism offered, with Jesus as God’s sacred representative on earth. As a literate and Roman citizen Paul had a number of factors working for him that the Twelve Apostles did not. He wrote down his positions defining Christianity, creating a body of written work, and he had freedom of travel within the Roman Empire, setting up branch communities outside of the movement’s ‘headquarters’ in Jerusalem.
And indeed when he did go to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostle leadership (James, Peter and John), it was marked with strife, disagreement and animosity. Indeed, in Paul’s thinly veiled view of was conveyed with severe characterization and sarcasm: Referring to James, Peter and John, he called them as “the so-called pillars… those reputed to be somebody… what they are means nothing to me…” (Galatians 2:6, 9) He continues on another passage of the New Testament: “I am not the least inferior to these super apostles… false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:5, 13). Indeed he claims his heavenly revelation on the road to Damascus superseded anything that Jesus and Apostles taught, revealed to him alone by God. Never once in Paul’s writings does Paul directly quote any of the teachings of Jesus, and only once does Paul appear to allude to one of those teachings. Indeed Paul by all appearances took pride in lying about faith (1 Corinthians 9:20-21) where he expressed orthodox Jewish Torah tract for one audience where for those outside adopted a completely different message… As stark contrast to “Seek and ye shall find” and “The Truth shall set you free,” teachings of Jesus (cited even in The Gospel of Jesus with the original unadulterated teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and determined by the Jesus Seminar, a collection of over 150 critical scholars and laymen Biblical scholars whose goal was to find the original word of Jesus, free of later additions after His death.
Theologians, of course, vigorously contest the conclusions of Tabor’s interpretations and scholarship, their points originating from tradition and articles of faith. From an academic and historical perspective, however, Tabor’s points cannot be simply dismissed out of hand, just because of the uncomfortable historical perspective that they present. For me, the book was rich food for thought.