Meeting with James and other members of the community's leadership, he is again castigated for laxity in his observation of the Law. Acts does not record Paul's response to these charges, but it would appear, from what follows, that he perjures himself, denying the accusations against him, which his own letters reveal to have been justified
In other words, he recognizes the magnitude of his offence; and however fierce his integrity, however fanatic his loyalty to 'his' version of Jesus, he acknowledges that some sort of compromise is, this time, necessary. Thus, when asked to purify himself for seven days and thereby demonstrate the unjustness of the allegations against him, he readily consents to do so.
Eisenman suggests that
James may have been aware of the true situation and that Paul may
well have been 'set up'. Had he refused the ritual of purification,
he would have declared himself openly in defiance of the Law. By
acceding to the ritual, he became, even more than before, the 'Liar'
of the 'Habakkuk Commentary'. Whatever the course of action he
chose, he would have damned himself- which may have been precisely
what James intended.2
The ensuing riot is no minor disturbance:
The cohort is called out - no fewer than six hundred men -and Paul, in the nick of time, is rescued, presumably to prevent civil upheaval on an even greater scale. Why else would the cohort bother to save the life of one heterodox Jew who'd incurred the wrath of his fellows? The sheer scale of the tumult attests to the kind of currency, influence and power the so-called 'early Church' must have exercised in Jerusalem at the time - among Jews!
Clearly, we are
dealing with a movement within Judaism itself, which commands
loyalty from much of the city's populace.
There is only one
explanation for the Romans taking such an interest - that Paul is
suspected of being privy to information of a political and/or
Saved from this
fate by his hitherto unmentioned nephew, he is bundled, under
escort, out of Jerusalem to Caesarea, where he invokes his right as
a Roman citizen to make a personal appeal to the emperor. While in
Caesarea, he hobnobs in congenial and intimate fashion with the
Roman procurator, Antonius Felix. Eisenman has emphasized that he is
also intimate with the procurator's brother-in-law, Herod Agrippa
II, and with the king's sister - later the mistress of Titus, the
Roman commander who will destroy Jerusalem and eventually become
How else could so young a man have become the high priest's hatchet man?
In his letter to the Romans (16:11), moreover, he speaks of a companion strikingly named 'Herodion' - a name obviously associated with the reigning dynasty, and most unlikely for a fellow evangelist. And Acts 13:1 refers to one of Paul's companions in Antioch as 'Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch'.
Here, again, there is evidence of
high-level aristocratic affiliation.4
Those last muddled and enigmatic events in Jerusalem, the nick-of-time intervention of the Romans, Paul's heavily escorted departure from the city, his sojourn in luxury at Caesarea, his mysterious and utter disappearance from the stage of history - these things find a curious echo in our own era. One is reminded of beneficiaries of the 'Witness Protection Program' in the States. One is also reminded of the so-called 'supergrass phenomenon' in Northern Ireland. In both cases, a member of an illicit organization - dedicated to organized crime or to paramilitary terrorism - is 'turned' by the authorities.
He consents to give evidence and testify, in exchange for immunity, protection, relocation and money.
with the authorities, he would then be given a 'new identity' and,
together with his family, resettled somewhere theoretically out of
reach of his vindictive comrades. So far as the world at large was
concerned, he would, like Paul, disappear.
These are some of the questions generated by Robert Eisenman's research. But in any case, Paul's arrival on the scene set a train of events in motion that was to prove irreversible. What began as a localized movement within the framework of existing Judaism, its influence extending no further than the Holy Land, was transformed into something of a scale and magnitude that no one at the time can have foreseen.
The movement entrusted to the 'early Church' and the Qumran community was effectively hijacked and converted into something that could no longer accommodate its progenitors. There emerged a skein of thought which, heretical at its inception, was to evolve in the course of the next two centuries into an entirely new religion. What had been heresy within the framework of Judaism was now to become the orthodoxy of Christianity.
Few accidents of history can have had more far-reaching consequences.