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Did Paul Attempt a Bribe of the Jerusalem Church?

 

A Paul defender released a non-fiction movie
entitled A Polite Bribe in 2013. This title puts
a nice face on Paul's action mentioned in 1
Corinthians 16, calling it a "polite bribe." The
movie concedes Paul's effort was to bribe the
Jerusalem church to accept Paul.
 
We shall examine that question in this article.
 
But first, let's review the point of this movie A Polite Bribe.
 
Remarkably, and without any basis in fact, the movie claims James asking Paul in Acts 21 to prove Paul has not rejected the Law by Paul taking a Nazarite vow, and paying the costs of several other individuals to do so too, was a means of accepting Paul's bribe. However, that is pure conjecture, as we will demonstrate.
 
The movie's purpose was to smear Bishop James for supposedly accepting Paul's bribe and then allegedly using the Nazarite vow request in Acts 21 to set up Paul for a physical attack by Jews at the Temple. The Romans stepped in to protect Paul as a Roman citizen, supposedly foiling James' initial plan to have Paul killed by the mob. 
 
Yet, in the end, James allegedly succeeded by Nero's execution of Paul at the ensuing trial of Paul for his alleged responsibility that his companion from Ephesus -- Trophimus -- defiled the Temple at Jerusalem by means of entry in an uncircumcised state.
 
However, the researchers for this movie missed the fact Paul was acquitted at this trial. There are only tales that years later Paul was back in Rome, and on different charges was executed by Nero. See our review of A Polite Bribe at this link.  
 
Now let's review the issue whether Paul was attempting a bribe in 1 Corinthians 16 as conceded in this very Paul-friendly movie.    

 

Did Paul Attempt a Bribe?

 
Paul made a play to the Corinthians -- Gentiles -- to make a collection that Paul intends to include a cover letter to the church at Jerusalem. This means the collection from Gentiles would be brought to the Jerusalem church with a letter from Paul. Yet, Paul himself would not be present. This is in 1 Cor. 16:2-3.    
  

Let's break this down, and analyze the import of

Paul's plan of action.

 

Paul in 1 Cor. 16:2 asks the people to set aside some

of their income for him when he comes. He calls this

a collection. It would be for the Jerusalem church.

 

Then in 1 Cor. 16:3 Paul asks them to wait so he can

arrive to include a cover letter for the Jerusalem

church. He writes: "Then on my arrival, I will send

letters with those you recommend to carry your gift

to Jerusalem." (See link.)

 

This quote means (a) Paul is not accompanying the

gift to Jerusalem because otherwise the letter itself

would be unnecessary; and (b) had Paul not included

the letter, the Jerusalem church would not necessarily

have known Paul had any responsibility for the gift.

 

Hence, Paul clearly wanted credit for the giving of this

collection by the Corinthians. In a sense, Paul wanted

to prove he was a money-maker to the Jerusalem

church.

 

Thus, Paul is trying once more to gain favor with the

Jerusalem church but in this case by means of

money. The purpose is obvious.

 

Accordingly, Paul's involvement turned a gift from the

Corinthians into a bribe from Paul. While there is a

fine line between a gift and a bribe, Paul clearly

crossed it. He did not need to include any letter at all.

The Corinthians intended a gift. Paul intended to

obtain favor with the Jerusalem church -- something

he complained frequently elsewhere he did not

receive. See The 12 Apostles Refuse to Commend

Paul.

 

The Bible talks negatively of what Paul was doing.

The Internatonal Standard Bible Encyclopedia

(1979) vol. 2 at 477 explains:

[T]he giving of gifts among people often followed a

lower standard, so that what is described as a 'gift'

in OT passages may be indistinguishable from a

'bribe' or 'payoff.' Proverbs 18:16 indicates the 

fine line between gift and bribe, and the selfish 

abuse of giving: 'A man's gift makes room for him

and brings him before great men.' The numerous

injunctions in the OT against the taking of bribes

suggests that such abuse was well-known. (Ex.

23:8.) In Sirach, the sage suggests "a word is

better than a gift."

 

So how did the apostles at Jerusalem view such gifts

being sent directly to themselves from Gentiles rather

than put in the poor box at the Temple anonymously?

 

Here's the clear answer. Apostle John commended

preachers who refused to take money from Gentiles,

obviously viewing such money as bribes to preach

doctrine the Gentiles would like: 

 

Because that for his name's sake they went forth,

taking nothing of the Gentiles. (3 John 7.) 

 

Obviously, John as a "pillar of the church," as Paul

said, was commending the missionaries to the

Gentiles for refusing any Gentile money to avoid

compromise. John was implying they would be bribes

if accepted.

 

This means if Paul came with an offering of Gentile

money to be given directly to the Jerusalem church,

the church would naturally and appropriately refuse it.

The money had to be instead distributed directly to

the poor, e.g., put in a poor box anonymously, with

no possible influence being gained over the church

itself.

 

Hence, we have one more piece of evidence of the

selfish fruit of Paul -- not good fruit. Jesus told us to

assess those claiming to be prophets by examining

their fruit.

 

This adds to the list of Paul's misdeeds. This time it

represents the condemnable use of the well-meaning

efforts of others' charity. 

 

For some of the other misdeeds of Paul to weigh

whether his fruit disqualifies accepting him as a

prophet, see [1] Blasphemy & Paul, [2] Guile and Paul 

[3] Did Paul ever deliberately lie? And [4] Evil immoral

commands of Paul. See also [a] Paul on Sex and Marriage 

and [b] Paul's Commands not to Help Young Widows.