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Jesus Unflatteringly Prophesies Of Paul in Matthew 5:17-19

Scholars going all the way back to Augustine in 390 AD say Paul was playing on the meaning of his name as "least" when he tells the Corinthians:

For I am the least [Greek elichiston, adj.] of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor. 15:9)

Paul was playing on Paul's Latin name "Paulus" (which he had to have to be a citizen of Rome), as Augustine pointed out in 390 AD. (See below.) Paulus in Latin is a contracted form of a word that means "least." Several mainstream Church commentators admit this, as explained below.

However, these scholars' admissions will lead to the unraveling of Paul under a prophecy of our Lord. For Jesus refers to those in the kingdom will use the name of "least" -- the same Greek elichisto, adj., as in 1 Cor. 15:9 -- to identify one who teaches relaxation of obedience to the Law of Moses.

This is in Matthew 5:19This passage reads in the Young's Literal Translation:

'Whoever therefore may loose one of these commands -- the least -- and may teach men so, least [Greek, elichistos] he shall be called in the reign of the heavens, but whoever may do and may teach them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens.  (Matt. 5:19, YLT.)

We will now review this in more detail.

Paul's Name is Paulus

Luke tells us Saul was "also known as Paul." (Acts 13:9.) Luke never explains the origin of this name. Nowhere is it explained in the New Testament.

Whence came that name? And what does it mean?

Paul as a Roman citizen from birth, as a citizen of Tarsus, had to have a Roman name. It turns out that Paulus is a Latin name rendered as Paulos in Greek.

Thus, "Paulos" in Greek (Acts 13:6) is a transliterated form of the Latin name "Paulus." In other words, Paulos is the Greek form of the Latin "Paulus."

In Latin, "Paulus" is a shortened form of the name "Pauxillulus," just like we say "Joe" for the name "Joseph."

Why did Paul have a Latin name? Luke tells us Saul of Tarsus was a Roman citizen by birth. Acts 22:28. This is verifiable because 100 years earlier, Roman politician Anthony had conferred Roman citizenship upon all the inhabitants of Tarsus, and this was later attested to by Emperor Caesar Augustus. (See Barnes' Commentary notes at this link.)

However, to receive Roman citizenship, a Jew had to give the child a second name in Latin belonging to the benefactor bestowing citizenship:

"When a foreigner received the right of citizenship, he took a new name, which was ar­ranged on much the same principles as have been ex­plained in the cases of freedmen. His original name was retained as a sort of cognomen, and before it were written the praenomen that suited his fancy and the nomen of the person, always a Roman citizen, to whom he owed his citi­zenship. " Harold W. Johnston, The Private Life of the Romans (Revised by Mary Johnston) (Scott, Foresman and Company: 1932) ch. 2.

So besides a Jewish name like Saul, his father had to give his son a Roman name -- this is evidently why Paul has a Latin name Paulus. He would be known as "Paulus Saul." In the Greek NT, Paulus was transliterated as "Paulos."

Thus, because Paulus is a shortened form of the name Pauxillulus, what does it mean in Latin?

Paulus/Pauxillulus Means 'Least"

Paulus is a contraction of Pauxillulus.  

Pauxillulus in Latin means "least." 

In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, in order to explain why Paul calls himself the "least" (in Greek, elichiston, adj.) of the apostles in 1 Cor. 15:9, they point out the meaning of Paul's true Latin name:

"The name, "Paulus," in Latin, means "least." (See also Biblos quote of Jamieson).

Likewise, we read in Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul (E.P. Dutton, 1880) at 200 or (1903) at 200 the meaning of Paul's name, and how Augustine ca. 390 AD explained Paul used it in 1 Cor. 15:9:

"Paulus, a contraction of Pauxillus [sic: Pauxillulus], means 'least.'" (citing a reference in Augustine's Sermons clxix)[It appears he means Sermon 169:5. Cf Works of St. Augustine: A Translation for 21st Century (1992) at 225. See Sermon 169 in Latin.]  

What word did Augustine have in mind that when the contraction removed means least? It turns out that the uncontracted form of Paul's name includes either Pauxillus or Pauxillulus, but only the latter means "least." Obviously, this is what Augustine was saying was Paul's name.

First, we need to read Thomas Holyoke who explains in A Large Dictionary in Three Parts (Sawbridge 1677) at "Pau ... Pec" the two words at issue: "Pauxillus...very little, exceeding few. Pauxillulus...the least that can be, extraordinarily few." Hence, Augustine was referring to Pauxillulus, not Pauxillus, as the intended double dimunitive name that Paul had in fact.

 

How do such differing dimunitives get contracted to the same contracted name of Paulus? It is simple. Latin writers frequently abbreviated such a long word by simply removing all the middle letters, and keeping just the beginning and ending. As explained in Donaldson's Varrionianus: "But the hasty pronunciation of the Romans, so far as it was exhibited in the written forms of the language, appears chiefly in the omission of syllables in the middle of words...." (John William Donaldson, Varrionianus: A Critical and Historical Introduction to the Ethnography etc. (1852) at page 435.) In this way, Paulus abbreviates both into either Pauxillus or Pauxillulus. Augustine says Paul gave us a reference point in 1 Cor. 15:9 that we know it was the latter - Pauxillulus by Paul playing on the meaning of his Latin name.

So what is the background on the meaning of Pauxillulus?

Thus "extreme dimunitive" of the word 'small' in Latin is Pauxillulus, which predictably then means "least."

Christa Gray's work Jerome, Vita Malchi (Oxford, OUP, 2015) at 146 explains that there is a schematic scale of four grades, set forth in Don. Ter. Phorm 32:2 for this word for 'small': "pauxillulum quartus gradis dimunitionis: paulum paululum pauxillum pauxillulum."

The farthest extreme and the next less extreme version can be contracted to a single similar word of Paulum / Paulus, etc. This is explained cryptically in Heinrich Keil in Grammatici latini ex recensione (ed. Heinrich Keil & Herman Hagan) at page 109 where he says in Latin: "facit igitur 'paulus,' 'paululus,' ex hoc 'pauxillus,' 'pauxillulus'...." This means "so does small and very small come from [the uncontracted forms in Latin of] very very little and least." Hence, both uncontracted words derive from the same words -- Paulus or Paululus.

In Karl Gottlob Zumpt, A Grammar of the Latin Language (Longman Brown and Green, 1845) at 219, he simiilarly explains: "Double diminutives are formed from paucus and paulus: Pauxillus and Pauxillulus." This means when the contraction is removed Paulus can mean Pauxillus.

Explaining the "Least" Meaning by Parsing the Latin

To be thorough, let's study the Latin carefully.

In Latin the word "Paulus" is a contraction of either "Pauxillus" or "Pauxillulus." The latter means "least," and was obviously what Augustine was referencing when Paul called himself in Greek "least" - elicthos. So in Latin, Paul becomes "least" by uncontacting it to "Pauxillulus."

By adding "ill" to a Latin adjective "Paulo," we are implying a diminutive meaning, i.e., it is "lesser than" whatever the base adjective means. By adding "ulus" we are adding the superlative. It is "least" of whatever the base adjective represents. Since here the base adjective to "Pauxillulus" is "Paulo" which means "little" or "small" already, now it means "least" when translating Pauxillulus. You must add a diminutive meaning in the extreme to something which already is "little" or "small." (See Ainsworth Latin Dictionary of 1831 at page 237.)

So when you do so, Pauxilluluus literally means "least," and is recorded as "least" in Latin dictionaries quoted above. 

Augustine's Explanation of 1 Corinthians 15:9

Paul said once:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor. 15:9)

Augustine, a famous church leading writer, in the 390s said Paul is playing on the meaning of his name as "least." See, Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul (E.P. Dutton, 1880) at 200 the meaning of Paul's name, and how Augustine ca. 390 AD explained Paul used it in 1 Cor. 15:9

"Paulus, a contraction of Pauxillus [sic: Pauxillulus], means 'least.'" (citing a reference in Augustine's Sermons clxix.)[The correct citation is to Sermon 169:5. Cf Works of St. Augustine: A Translation for 21st Century (1992) at 225.]

Thus, "Paulus" had a connotation of "least" in Latin which was explained by Augustine in about 390 AD when Latin was still a living language.

Why didn't Augustine see the link betwen 1 Cor. 15:9 and Matthew 5:19? After all, Paul is alluding to the meaning of his name in Latin as "least" using the Greek word "elichistos" -- which Jesus uses identically in Matthew 5:19 to mean "least"? (Jesus used the same word "elichiston" except with a neuter ending. This does not change the meaning, as adjectives can vary the ending but not change their meaning.) Thus, even though Jesus in Matthew 5:19 used "elichiston" in the neuter form to criticize the one who will negate the Law, and Paul -- the one who negates the Law numerous times -- alluded to his Latin name as meaning "elichistos" in 1 Cor. 15:9, Augustine missed the obvious connection. This shows Augustine made this admission unwittingly, unaware how it would prove Jesus was giving us a warning prophecy about Paul.

 

Jesus Says the Kingdom Occupants Will Call By Name Least The One Who Teaches Against Keeping The Law

 

Who will the occupants of the kingdom of heaven call "least," according to our Lord Jesus? After mentioning the Law given Moses and the Prophets, Jesus says:

'Whoever therefore may loose one of these commands -- the least -- and may teach men so, least he shall be called in the reign of the heavens, but whoever may do and may teach them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens.  (Matt. 5:19, YLT.)

The pastor of the Bethel Church of God explains correctly, as I detail below on the Greek grammar, "This text does not infer that those who break the commandments and teach men so will be in the kingdom of heaven, but they will be called the least by those who are there." ("Understanding Paul," Bethel Church of God, Eugene, Oregon (Nov. 17, 2012).)

Incidentally, the Greek for "loose" is "luo" and means "relax" or "loosen."

This verse thus literally says "the least (elichistos) he shall be called [by those] in the kingdom of heaven" who looses/relaxes any of the commands in the Law given Moses.

Scholarly Agreement 5:19 Is Anti-Paul Statement

Because the “least” is the one who loosens the Law in Matthew 5:19, Johannes Weiss (1863-1914), Professor of Theology at Heidelberg (see photo below), in Das Urchristentum (1917) said “least” in Matt 5:19 is a prophecy about Paul. In 1951, scholar S.G.F. Brandon agreed with Weiss, “that the least in the kingdom of heaven is a reference to Paul, the least of the apostles (cf 1 Cor 15:9).” (See D.C. Sim, “Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies,” HTS 58(2) 2002 at 767 et seq. [link], citing S.G.F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (2nd edition. London: SPCK, 1957) at 232-34.)

weiss_author_of_dasurchristentum00weisuoft_0006

Even the famous and highly influential pro-Paul Christian theologian Rudolf Bultmann acknowledged the plausibility of Weiss' contention, saying that Matthew 5:19 (with its reference to "least" for the Law-loosening teacher) is a reference "perhaps to Paul himself." (Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (Trans. Kendrick Grobel)(N.Y.: Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1972) at 349 / Id., (1951) at 54.) See also, F.F. Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul (2010) at 64, quoting Bultmann.)

In accord, David Hill in The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981) notes: "Many have found in this verse an attack on the work and teaching of Paul" (Id., at 119), and "it is claimed the term 'least' is a reference to Paul." See also "Matt. 5:19," Wikipedia.

Bromily in the International Bible Standard Encyclopedia (Eerdman's 1995) mentions some make the "argument that the warning in Mt. 5:19 about the man who 'relaxes one of these least commandments and teaches men so' is a covert attack by stricter Jewish Christians on Paul." Id., at 823.

William David Davies & Dale C. Allison try to cast the issue less than certain (what in history is 100% certain?) by speculating others were equally anti-Law, and not just Paul, and perhaps Matthew did not know Paul's name meant "least." But otherwise, they admit too much. As followers of the Messiah-Yashua, we believe Jesus is speaking. The fact Matthew could not reasonably have known Paul's name meant 'least' in Latin bolsters this is a prophecy of our Lord rather than raises a question mark about whether Matthew understands what he is saying could apply to Paul. Indeed, the fact Matthew would lack the necessary knowledge of Latin to forge a prophecy like this into the text proves it is a true prophecy from our Lord Jesus about Paul. For Jesus certainly foresaw prophetically the Paul of several years in the future who would have a name meaning "least" in Latin. The fact Matthew would have no clue to a Latin meaning to "Paul" proves this is a genuine original prophecy of our Lord Jesus recorded by Apostle Matthew. Here is their nervous admissions:

It has, from time to time, been urged that Matt 5:19 adverts to Paul, who in one place called himself the 'least' of the apostles. (1 Cor. 5:19, the Latin Paulus = small). Now there is no doubt the polemical tone of 5:19: the verse was obviously formulated with laxness toward the Law in view. And we cannot exclude the possibility that Paul was originally the intended target. But this possibility remains far outside the bounds of certainty. There were many besides Paul who, at least in the eyes of others, sat loose to the Law....And in any case one cannot be certain that Paul was known as the 'least. (A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew (1988) at 497.)

But the skepticism of these scholars that Matthew could not likely know Paul's name meant 'least' to discount this applies to Paul is proof itself this is a prophecy of Jesus. For only Jesus, and not the writer Matthew, would know for certain the true meaning in Latin of the name of the law-loosener to come -- Paul.

For an elaborate scholarly demonstration of several anti-Pauline passages in Matthew (from Jesus) including 5:19, see D.C. Sim, "Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies," HTS 58(2) 2002 at 767 et seq., which we have excerpted here at this link. See also Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism (1998) at 200 et seq.

So Who Is Called "Least" and Taught The Relaxation Of The Law?

Paul taught “the Law was our custodian until Christ came” (Gal.3:24) but since then, Jesus was “abolishing in his flesh the Law of commandments and ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15).

And Paul's name means "least" in Latin!

What prescience and subtlety had our Lord.

And thus all Paulinists who proudly proclaim Paul as their own wear the brand of our savior on their doctrine as one condemned. They are all followers of the "Least."

Called By Those in the Kingdom Does Not Place The Least One In The Kingdom

Some try saying 5:19 is about "the least in the kingdom of heaven," and thus the least is at least saved. Implicitly, this response seeks to weaken our concern if we follow the 'least' man, as Jesus describes this law-loosening teacher.

However, please scrupulously note it does not say in 5:19 the "least in the kingdom of heaven," but instead says "the least [he is] called in the kingdom of heaven," as the YLT correctly translated this verse. The Greek words in Matt 5:19 are "elechistos kiethestai en te basileia ton ouranon." Literally "least shall [he] be called in the kingdom of heaven." It NEVER SAYS the "least in the kingdom; rather "least shall [he] be called in the kingdom of heaven." The presence of the verb "call" between "least" and "in the kingdom" makes clear Jesus is not saying this "least" man is in heaven. Rather, those "in the kingdom" shall call this law-loosener "the Least."

The YLT brings out this important grammatical difference, which I will quote again so one can see the true grammatical construct of the sentence:

19`Whoever therefore may loose one of these commands -- the least -- and may teach men so, least he shall be called in the reign of the heavens, but whoever may do and may teach [them], he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens. (Matt. 5:19.)

It is verse 20 that proves the "least" one is lost (absent repentance) because Jesus then requires an obedience from us greater than the Pharisees. Jesus elsewhere explained why: the Pharisees had a shallow view of the Law which Jesus identified in Matt. 23:23 (regard for the lesser command of tithing but the Pharisees leave the rest undone).

As a result, every scholar found who addresses this issue concurs that 5:19 means the “least” one remains outside the kingdom and is lost (absent repentance). For example, Adam Clarke, the famous Methodist commentator, explained in 1825 that “least” in 5:19 is understood as excluded from heaven, proven by 5:20:

“He who, by his mode of acting, speaking, or explaining the words of God, sets the holy precept aside, or explains away its force and meaning, shall be called least -- shall have no place in the kingdom of Christ here, nor in the kingdom of glory above. That this is the meaning of these words is evident enough from the following verse [i.e., 5:20].” (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible (1825) Vol. V at 56.)

Likewise, Alexander B. Bruce, DD, Professor of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis in the Free Church College in his The Kingdom of God (1897) at 66 says the "least" of 5:19 means to apply to a Pharisee identified next in 5:20 who “cares more for the little than the great commandments [Matt.23:23], [which] has no moral worth and is not in the kingdom at all."

In accord in reading 5:19-20 is the Protestant classic text, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed.G.W. Bromiley) (1985) at 574 which says of 5:19, Jesus means “those who erode the Law while supposedly protecting it will not even enter the kingdom (5:20).”

Similarly, James Blair, a famous theologian, in 1722 gave an insightful discourse which recognized this aspect to 5:19. He said: “The expression of least ... [must] signify to be totally excluded from [the kingdom of heaven].” (See James Blair, Our Savior’s Divine Sermon on the Mount (5 vols.)(London: 1722) quoted in Edward L. Bond, Spreading the Gospel in Colonial Virginia: Sermons and Devotional Writings (Lexington: 2004) at 193.)

Matthew Henry, the famous commentator, had the same opinion:

He that does so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, in the kingdom of glory; he shall never come thither, but be eternally excluded; or, rather, in the kingdom of the gospel-church. He is so far from deserving the dignity of a teacher in it, that he shall not so much as be accounted a member of it. (Henry on 5:19, Bible Study Tools.)

Gill in his famous treatise suggests initially two possibilities on what "least" means, but then in light of 5:20, he ends up pointing toward exclusion from heaven as what 'least' signifies. He writes:

the least in the kingdom of heaven; meaning either the church of God, where he shall have neither a name, nor place; he shall not be in the least esteemed, but shall be cast out as a worthless man; or the ultimate state of happiness and glory, in the other world, where he shall not enter, as is said in the next verse; (Gill on 5:19, Bible Study Tools.)

Cf. Augustine Sermon on the Mount ch. VIII from Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene ("'the least one in the kingdom of heaven'...perhaps he will not be in the kingdom of heaven at all.")

This vast consensus underscores Jesus was speaking of Pharisees, which includes Paul, and Jesus identified that henceforth those who would be teachers that the Law is annulled / loosened and not to be obeyed would be called "Paul" / "Paulinists." The "Least One / Ones."

Parallels Jesus' Fault With Pharisees On Law, And Their Consequent Damned Status At The Time

What confirms the lost status of the least one who loosens the law (absent repentance) is Jesus identically criticized the Pharisees as loosening the Law except tithing and then Jesus says they and their children are not entering the kingdom as a result:

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have OMITTED (KJV) LEFT UNDONE (ASV/Wycliff) neglected (NIV/YLT)  the more important matters of the Law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.****

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34'****

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.  (Matt. 23 NIV.)

So here we see Jesus threatens hell (if no repentance) upon the Pharisees and those following their teachings which minimize the Law to tithing, omitting, neglecting or leaving undone the weightier matters of the Law. It is the same point Jesus made in Matt. 5:19-20.

This does not mean all who accept Paul in canon are not going to enter heaven; it means all those who disregard the Law in reliance upon the Pharisee Paul, and do not do better in relation to the Law, will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Obedience to God's Law is crucial.

(FYI: The Law applicable to Gentiles is expressly far more narrow in the Law itself. It predominantly includes several chapters in Leviticus which largely repeat the 10 commandments apply to Gentiles. For discussion, see http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/JWO/law-applicable-today.html.)

Matthew 5:19 Is Hence Another Amazing Prophecy of Jesus

Jesus therefore prophesied -- for those who have ears to hear -- of Paulus -- the one who would come teaching men to no longer follow the Law. It was supposedly done away with, nailed to a tree, and made "dead to us." (Romans 7:1-6.) Indeed the one so teaching has that very name -- the "Least" -- Paul -- and will forever be called by that name by those entering the kingdom of heaven!

What an amazing prophecy of our Lord! It ranks up there right next to His prophecy that the Temple would one day be torn down. And His prophecy of the ravening wolves.

Unfortunately, this means that unless Paul and every Paulinist repented / repents before death of such doctrine and turns in obedience, it appears their doctrine is a damning one.

Confirmation from Book of Revelation That Jesus Warns of Paul

Corroboration that Jesus intended in Matthew 5:19 to prophesy about Paul (as a test) comes from examining how SUBTLY Revelation chapter two does likewise. It is an entire chapter of our Lord’s words. This prophecy about Paul is admitted by Renan, a defender of Paul, but he claims Rev. 2:2 were words put in Jesus' mouth by the early church leaders who hated Paul.

Renan in his famous defense of Paul in 1875 discounted Revelation chapter two as inauthentic because it was supposedly fabricated by Apostle John and the other apostles out of jealousy against Paul. However, if we conclude Jesus really spoke it (as I contend), then the same subtle message against Paul is in Revelation chapter two just as we find in Matthew 5:19.

Renan argued:

“The second and third chapters of the Apocalypse are a cry of hatred against Paul and his friends. This church of Ephesus, which owes so much to Paul, is praised for ‘not being able to bear with them which are evil; for having tried them, which say they are apostles and are not  for having found them liars; for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes,... because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols....” (Ernest Renan, Saint Paul (G.W. Carleton, 1875) at 220.)

Why is Revelation chapter two supposedly a hateful diatribe? Because Renan is aware that Paul teaches three times that there is nothing wrong in itself eating meat sacrificed to idols. (Romans 14:21;1 Cor. 8:4-13, and 1 Cor. 10:19-29.) And the words in Jesus' mouth in Revelation chapter two condemn this figure as a false prophet and apostle exposed at Ephesus.

Paulinists Know Paul Is Targeted by Matthew 5:19 and 23:23

For reasons similar to Renan's argument, the NT scholar E.P. Sanders in Jesus and Judaism (Foretress Press: 1985) at 277 defends Paul by saying Matt. 5:19 which contradicts Paul cannot thus be “an authentic saying of Jesus.” Sanders likewise says the related verse of Matt. 23:23 which portrays Jesus as believing the Pharisees are “not righteous enough” and that Jesus “favors a higher righteousness according to the law” which is at total odds with Paul proves Matt. 23:23 also does not reflect “the historical Jesus.” (As discussed above, Matt. 23:23, 31 confirms Jesus teaches the Pharisees had an anti-Torah position, except tithing, that Jesus said was damning.)

Desperation To Destroy Three Passages From Jesus

So the Paulinist is forced to deflect Jesus criticizes Paul -- subtly obviously -- by insisting Matthew 5:19 and 23:23 as well as all of chapter two of Revelation were fabrications. This is what Renan and Sanders collectively say is necessary to conclude so as to prevent our recognition that Jesus condemns Paul!

But for the one following Jesus Christ--our one and only teacher--the solution is not to dump Jesus' words in favor of Paul's. Rather, we discard Paul's contrary teachings. We need to hold onto those of our Lord Messiah.

Conclusion

Why then did Paul end up in Scripture?

It is a test from God. In Deut. 13:1-5, God says He permits false prophets to come and potentially seduce us to see whether we Love the Lord our God with our whole heart, mind and soul. We have to look at fruit as well as consistency with Torah/the Law and the Messiah's Words. Paul fails in every respect.

Have you passed the test from God on how to weigh Paul?

The End


Study Notes: Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus Say Pharisees Are Loose About The Law

E.P. Sanders in the quote above dismisses the authenticity of Matthew 23:23 because he 'knows' the Pharisees were legalists, not anti-legalists. However, only Paul in the NT says the Pharisees were the "strictest" sect and that Paul was fully "righteous" when he complied with Pharisee training.

However, history has now caught up with Paul, and confirmed Jesus had the correct historical truth about the Pharisees. They were loose, not strict, about the Law. Here is the evidence:

The Dead Sea Scrolls (250-50 B.C.) speak comparably to what Jesus said about the flaws in the Pharisees' doctrine on the Law which meant they were heading to damnation. The DSS say the Pharisees were "smooth interpreters" of the Law. Horsley says this means the Pharisees' rulings "were lax and liberal" on how to interpret the Law. He says this is ironic, because the DSS give "quite a different picture from the Christian traditional stereotype of [the Pharisees] as strict legalists." (Richard A. Horsley, Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark's Gospel (Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) at 153.)

Jesus's view of the Pharisees as anti-legalists is also confirmed by Josephus -- a Jewish scholar -- in his work Antiquities of the Jews (78 A.D.) For Josephus in 78 A.D. will explain there were two primary parties in Judaism in Jesus' day. They were the Sadducees and Pharisees. He will explain the Sadducees taught strict obedience to the Law. The Sadducees rejected the Pharisees precisely for their opposite approach on the Law of Moses. They believed the Pharisees supplanted the Law of Moses with mere traditions of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were negating the Law of Moses by their traditions.

Here is Josephus, the First Century Jewish historian, identifying what divided these two parties:

What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the Law of Moses; and it is for this reason that the Sadducees reject them, and say we are to esteem those observances that are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. (Josephus Flavius, Antiquities of the Jews 13.10.6 (13.297)(Whiston translation (1841) at 360.)

Chaplain and Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) said this variance in doctrine between the two sects is why Jesus in Matthew 5:20 says our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees rather than that of the Sadducees. In this verse, "Christ does not name the Sadducees, but the Scribes and the Pharisees." Jeremy traces this back to the shallow doctrine of the Pharisees, for they (not the Sadducees) would "add words of their own" to the Law, but the Sadducees "would admit of no suppletory traditions." (Jeremy Taylor, "Sermon 1: Righteousness Evangelical," Discourses on Various Subjects (Boston: 1816) at III:10.)

This is why Jesus exhorted us to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees: it was shallow. The Sadducees alone were on the right track in terms of the Law. Hence, E.P. Sanders was wrong to rely upon Paul's views of the Pharisees to reject as inauthentic Matthew 23:23. Rather, Paul turns out to have described to a crowd / Gentiles incorrectly what it meant to be a Pharisee. I don't suppose Paul was lying, but instead, he suffered from a belief that the self-righteousness of Pharisees (as Jesus depicted them) was indeed appropriate righteousness when the 'Law' was in effect.

"Least in the Kingdom" Reference to John the Baptist

Some argue that it is not so bad to be called "least in the kingdom of heaven" as Jesus calls the law-loosener in Matt 5:17-19. This is because in Matt 11:11 Jesus supposedly makes the same reference to John the Baptist.

However, Jesus does not do so. It is an English mistranslation. And the expression is not "least in the kingdom" in Matt 5:17-19, but rather are "called least by those in the kingdom of heaven," implying the exclusion of the "least" man in Matt 5:17-19. However, in Matthew 11:11, it is clear that the one involved is actually IN the Kingdom of Heaven.

So let's read Matt 11:11 in the NIV form:

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

The word rendered "least" in 11:11 does not mean that at all. It is a comparison term -- mikroteros, and means less. The word rendered "least" in Matt 5:19 is the superlative form, and its root form is elaxistos. There is thus a world of difference between less and least, but in English the same word was used in both cases where only in Matt 5:19 is it appropriate. (See this link at 11.) So Matthew 11:11 should be rendered:

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is less in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Hence, there is no parallelism in the original Greek. It is solely born of English mistranstranslation, whether unintentional or not does not matter.

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Email Reactions to This Article

I would like to thank you for showing me something extremely important, that those who break the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, will be called least by those in the kingdom of heaven, and will not, in fact BE in the kingdom!  I can't believe that I never read that verse correctly despite having read it a thousand times. It goes to show the importance of fellowship and discussion. (Sandy 9/4/2015)


I am particularly amazed by the second video on Paul's name meaning 'Least." I did not notice this question of the word least and the name Paul. (Ruy,author of Faithful to Jesus Christianity and The Truth About the Apostle Paul (2012) -- available through his website at this link.(July 31, 2011)


Excellent article--very convincing.  Thank you Doug! (Mike B, Esq., Jan. 19, 2011)


Yes, I had known for a long time that Paul's name meant the least, but never made the connection to Matthew 5:19.  Thanks for this insight!  Keep 'em coming! Shalom Ed. (Jan. 15, 2011.)


J. Jan. 10, 2011's Lengthy Letter:

Wow, this is impressive!  I knew that “Paul” meant “small” but somehow the connection between “small” and “least” just never registered until I saw the word jump out at me in your message below.  It’s like it’s one of those things that is hidden in plain view.  Amazing.

When I consider 1 Cor. 15:9 after reading your comments, it really shows just how extremely clever and crafty he was (trying to diffuse the meaning of his name ahead of time).  I also found your comments on the word itself (“least”) very interesting, because while I have considered that those who do not keep Torah are lost, the “least” statement puzzled me as to why it seemed to soften the blow.  It makes perfect sense that it would be those IN the Kingdom who would be calling those lawbreakers “least.”  This is another one of those things hidden in plain sight.  Wow.  You really nailed it.

You also answered my question about his name in your final paragraph (thank you!) as to whether or not the name “Paul” was really eligible to be considered as descriptive of him since we also know his name was Sha’ul.  I did not know that Paul was anything more than just a nickname.  That is pretty much the last nail in the coffin on this topic for me.

Good job, and thank you SO much for keeping me on your mailing list. I can almost see your excitement in sending this out after burning midnight oil! Shalom.


This is a Brilliant article that the Holy Spirit has revealed to you in these last days...Thanks for keeping an open ear and heart to the Holy Spirit for Him to speak these truths to you and then share them with the world. I pray that you will continue to receive more revelation as you Meditate on God's Word.Your work is so Good and has greatly Blessed my life...Thank you for taking the time to continue this Great work of freeing the Church from all the Lies and deceptions she has believed all these years. I am sharing everything I learn from you with others...(Gary Jan. 10, 2011.)


Pleasure to hear from you. This is stunning news. What have I been telling you? It's VERY serious.  He's the Spouter of Lying!... You know his antinomianism. Jesus has at least FIVE references to him in the negative: "ravening wolf", "least in the kingdom", "some there [including false apostle to Ephesus] who hold the teaching of Balaam" (Rev. 2:2 and 14), etc. (Robert W. Jan. 10, 2011). 


Wow!!! Thank you for the WEALTH of excellent articles on your website. You have put in so much time and effort to make these available for everyone to read. There's SO much clarification in them and it's very helpful as I'm trying to clear my thinking of all the Pauline cobwebs. And many there are.. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! May God richly bless you for sharing all that you have learned. I too desire to be a faithful servant.


As always, I find Doug's research and article thought provoking.  I would like to point out too that even the name /character "Saul" is associated with "least."  Check out 1 Samuel 9:21 and 1 Samuel 15:17. And interestingly enough King Saul losses his "Kingdom" because he didn't follow God's word.  Perhaps another parallel?  On a final note however, I can't say that I am convinced that all Paul believing/following Christians are lost.  But thanks for the work Doug!!! (George Jan. 16, 2011)

My Reply. I do not believe "all Paul believing / following Christians are lost." I went back and revised the article to make that clear. I only believe what Jesus says. That those following the Pharisees loosened-law principles will not enter the kingdom if they do not do better than those law-looseners. (Matt. 5:20.) It is very much up to whether they "do the will of God" or not. That goes for all of us, as much as them. But because of Paul as their teacher, they have little chance to do so until they overcome the obstacle Paul represents to hearing and obeying the Law. Remember as to Gentiles, the scope of the Law is limited to commands that sojourners/foreigners followed, principally the Ten Commandments and most of Leviticus 17-22. Only Israelites had to be circumcised under the Law; Gentiles were exempt unless they wish to celebrate passover or enter the Temple at Jerusalem. See my discussion at this link. (Jan. 17, 2011.)

You Tube Comment by Joe John

Joe John
Fantastic video. I also believe that Yehushua warned of Paul's doctrine.

Mat 7:21
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Which is the antitheses of the doctrine that Paul taught.

Rom 10:9
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Keep up the good work! Check out my video when you get a chance.


Study Aids

Precept Austin - details all commentary links to 5:19-20

Weiss mentions regarding Matthew 5:17-19: "the remark about him being least in the kingdom of God is explained as being a Jewish-Christian polemic against the Apostle Paul." (Bernhard Weiss, The Life of Christ (Edinburgh, 1888) Vol. II at 147.

**** NEW - This is now presented in a You Tube Video narrated Power Point presentation.****