Paul's Authority

I was thinking about this and I wondered if there was an answer:

In Paul’s letters he admits to persecuting the early church. I believe he says something to the effect of killing/beating the early members he ran across. This would have been (roughly) between 40-60 AD (I think).

What authority did he have for doing this though? I’m not a history buff, so I don’t really have any clue, but it seems to me that the Jews could not ‘punish/kill’ people willy-nilly (if they could, then there would have been no need to appeal to Pilote).

Christian persecution (IIRC) came later, far after Paul’s early days.

Widespread persecution perhaps but could there have been localized intra-Judean & environs persecution? I don’t see why not.

And after dispatching their leader, Pilate in Judea and Herod in Galilee could well have delegated some lethal authority in doing their dirty work. I’m sure they didn’t look to kindly upon its continuance after JC was dead. Perhaps Saul of Tarsus being both a Roman citizen & a fervent Pharisee applied for & got a deputization as “Special Agent Against the Jeshua Cult” with a License to Kill.

“The name’s Saul. Saul of Tarsus.”

Yes, there could be a roving gang-type persecution. Is this what we are supposed to believe though? I’m not disputing that this is possible, I guess I’m trying to see if there is an ‘official’ position on this.


Again, I admit this could have happened.

The bible is kind of sparse on Paul’s early life - is there any Church tradition with regards to it?

Paul was essentially working for the Sanhedrin, who were having the Christians detained, arrested and/or stoned for blasphemy. He is first mentioned in the book of Acts as a witness to the stoning of Stephen (Acts ch. 7) and then later on has the responsibility of bringing them in from other cities – he is on his way to Demascus to apprehend Christians there when he has his conversion experience. He mentions in some letters how he perscuted them, but does not go into much detail.

Or he was lying. Paul could have made his sordid past up. Remember that Acts was written by one of his followers.

I was just thinking of this – similar to how Vanilla Ice lied about his own past.

All I know is, when Christianity needed a hardass, he stepped up and started epistlin’.

It’s a good question, but the answer is unknown. The only attestation that Christians were persecuted that early on is from Paul himself. We don’t have any other coroborration for that (unless you count Acts as some kind of reliable history, which I don’t), and Paul is very vague about his authority and context.

Lynchings were very common in ancient times, and its quite plausible that Roman soldiers might turn a blind eye to it.

Then why did the Sanhedrin need the Romans to crucify Jesus?

Why – to make himself look good? Don’t quite see it.

And anyway, if he was promoting himself (for whatever reason) as one of the very early church’s boogeymen and making it up out of whole cloth, while speaking directly to that church now, wouldn’t he face questions of, "but we don’t remember you . . . " ?

Too public, I imagine. (Not saying that lychings were common, but even if they were I could see how Jesus would be an exception.)

Galatians 1:13-14
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

This makes it sound like Paul saw Jewish followers of Jesus (and maybe not just followers of Jesus) as straying from the Law, and Christians may have just been a subset of Jews he harassed in his (self-admitted) fanaticism for Jewish Law.

On the other hand, the earliest followers of Jesus (according to Paul) still kept the law. He may have seen something heretical about their Messianic expectations (whatever those were. We don’t really know).

Jesus had organized a strong following in Jerusalem itself so Jesus’ followers might very well have fought back. On the other hand Paul persecuted Christians in other cities where their influence may be considered fairly weak.

There is zero evidence for this, and even the Canonical Gospels (fiction that they are) say that the crowd was screaming for his blood, and his disciples were running away from him, denying that they knew him.

Paul doesn’t say this.

Well, wasn’t Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem supposed to have raised such a hue and cry that it seriously alarmed the priests? And even if his followers per se were small in number, everything I’ve read indicates that Jerusalem was a serious tinderbox of incipient revolt. Even if it weren’t forbidden by law, it seems to me that the priests still might want the hated Romans to do the deed so as to avoid possibly being lynched themselves.

It was against Jewish law for the Priests to participate in a crucifixion.

The triumphant entry into Jerusalem is demonstrably a literary fiction, by the way.

The Jewish authorities under the Romans didn’t have the authority to execute people. It’s probable that there were extra-legal killings for religious offenses, but not in a case this high-profile – the Romans might let some things slide, but wouldn’t brook anything that too obviously flouted their status as the givers and enforcers of the law.

The Gospel account papers over this problem (e.g. presenting Jesus as being accused of blasphemy before religious authorities who couldn’t have handed down the religiously indicated penalty if he were to be found guilty) as best it can.

How do you demonstrate that the triumphal entry was a literary fiction?

You realize, of course, that asking Dio this is like asking Jon Lovitz, “Who had Frankie Pentangeli killed? Who gave the order?”