Deviation from Pharisaism, in the origin of Christianity

English Section / 15 aprilie

Versiunea în limba română

(The Roman Empire subjugates the Kingdom of Heaven - Episode 5)


From the biblical proverb "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender" (1), through Hillel's Prosbul (which abolished hope for debt forgiveness and perpetuated enslavement as the inevitability of impoverishment), the Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, from the New Testament, comes to consecrate the obedience of the slave to his master, in Chapter 6: "5. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ, [...]" (2).

The verse was used, until beyond the mid-19th century, against black slaves by American slave owners (3).

Of course, here, comments can be oriented towards the subject of the master-slave relationship (and that is what exegetes do), but if we "don't beat around the bush," then it is observed that the verse of the Apostle Paul is, if not in contradiction, then at least in opposition to the First Commandment of the Decalogue: "6. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. / 7. You shall have no other gods before me" (Orthodox Bible, Deuteronomy, 5).

The Apostle Paul urges slaves/servants to regard their masters as if they were Christ/God, which is opposite to the spirit of the Decalogue and contrary to the attitude of the Jews, who did not hesitate to choose death rather than worship the Roman emperor as a god (as they were demanded).

The depreciation of divinity at the level of the slave owner and/or the elevation of the slave owner to a rank comparable to that of God/Christ seem to have their origin in the subtle mutation operated by Hillel's clan on Judaism, a mutation that flourishes in Christianity, through the decisive contribution of the Apostle Paul to its formation.

The promoter of the Prosbul, Hillel, is the grandfather of Hillel Gamaliel, and he, in turn, is the teacher of Saul of Tarsus (4), who, at some point, became known as the Apostle Paul, thus the direction towards the Roman concept of nexum - from the material debt that is not repaid to the deprivation of freedom and the ideology of developing slave obedience - is outlined throughout three generations of the same deviated Pharisaic thinking family.

Originally, Hillel, Rabban Gamaliel, and Paul/Saul were all Pharisees - a political faction that (unlike the Sadducees) believed in resurrection and the afterlife (a belief that is also found in Christianity) - but on a branch of increasingly liberal interpretation of the Law, deviating from the strict adherence that defined Pharisaism.

The association of the Apostle Paul with the Evangelist Luke, who is said to have been his disciple, extends the potential Pharisaic and Hillelian influence over four generations and more than half of the New Testament.

However, the New Testament regards Hillel Gamaliel favorably, recounting (in the "Acts of the Apostles," a text written by the Evangelist Luke) his decisive intervention to save and release the apostles (5), so it is presumed that the Hillelian influence (of Pharisaic extraction) on the New Testament was not limited to the writings of Paul and Luke.

By daring to suspend part of the Commandments, Hillel exemplified humanity's departure from God, a path that would later be completed, both in Christianity, through the rejection of the Torah by the Apostle Paul, and in Judaism, through the dramatic establishment, during the same century, of what could be called "rabbinic democracy."

The courage of Saul/Paul to reject the Law/Torah en bloc and the courage of his rival (from the immediate next generation), Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah (6), to reject God's interpretation of the Law, stem from the precedent set by Hillel's audacity and are both Hillelian echoes.

This did not prevent Joshua from polemicizing with the Judeo-Christians, whom he considered heretics, although he too did not submit to God.

But, as the Talmud says, upon seeing the "creativity" of Joshua ben Hananiah, God smiled:

"The Gemara relates: Several years after the incident, Rabbi Natan met the prophet Elijah and asked him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do at that moment when Rabbi Yehoshua made his statement? Elijah said to him: The Holy One, Blessed be He, smiled and said: My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me." (Bava Metzia 59b:5)

It is therefore presumed that He also smiled at the Epistle to the Galatians of the Apostle Paul, where the destructive question "So, why the Law?" appears (7).


(1) The Masoretic text: Proverbs (corresponding to "Solomon's Proverbs" in the Orthodox Bible), 22:7.

(2) This is a version from the "Holy Bible, New Romanian Translation" (Nouă Traducere În Limba Română) / 2006 / Biblica, Inc., which uses the word "Sclavilor" ("Slaves").

The Orthodox Bible translates differently:

"5. Servants, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. [...]"

(The Orthodox Bible / New Testament / Ephesians, Chapter 6)

(3) "Thurman () relates the strategy of his maternal grandmother Nancy Ambrose, who, being kept illiterate by the slavery in which she was born, had the Bible read to her, but then no longer wanted to hear from the Apostle Paul.

She told Thurman: 'The white master always used something from Paul as his text. At least three or four times a year, he used as his text: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters... as unto Christ." Then she went on to show how it was God's will that we should be slaves and how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us.'

She insisted that the meaning of the text must meet her criterion of describing the 'God in whom it is worth believing.'

A text whose interpretation diminishes the humanity of its listeners cannot speak the truth about justice or any other transcendent idea."

"Year 1: A Philosophical Recounting" / Susan Buck-Morss / p.210 / Massachusetts Institute of Technology / 2021

() Howard Washington Thurman (November 18, 1899 - April 10, 1981) was an American author, philosopher, theologian, mystic, educator, and civil rights leader.

(4) Acts of the Apostles, 22:

"3. I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today."

(5) The Acts of the Holy Apostles, 5:

"33. And when they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up in the council and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.

And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men.

For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.

After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail;

but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice,

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus."

(6) Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananyah (c.80 - c.110): A Tannaim from the third generation, he was only second to R. Eliezer among the students of R. Yochanan b. Zakkai. He established an academy in Peki'in and became a rival of R. Eliezer. His independence brought him into conflict with the authority of Rabban Gamaliel II, known as Gamaliel of Yavne (a nephew of Gamaliel I, who was, according to tradition, a nephew of Hillel); when he submitted to him, he became the most influential scholar of his time. He polemicized against the Judeo-Christians, considering them heretics.

(7) English Standard Version 3:19.: "Why then the law?"


This essay proposes an interpretation that does not exclude the established ones, but only adds to them; the criticism it develops on some religious texts is nothing more than criticism of texts; readers are warned that the author of the essay did not intend to harm faith and is aware that this would not be a useful or achievable objective.

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