Related Content

Fr. Paul Tarazi: From Study to Heresy!

A Critique of his Book Introduction to the New Testament: Paul and Mark

Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)

The article translated below, by Archimandrite Touma (Bitar), Abbot of the Monastery of St. Silouan in Douma, Lebanon and a graduate of St. Vladimir’s seminary, was originally published in 2000 in Majallat al-Nour, the official magazine of the Orthodox Youth Movement of the Patriarchate of Antioch. The translation was made available for the OCIC by the editor of Notes on Arab Orthodoxy. All page numbers refer to the Arabic translation of Fr. Tarazi’s book. [ Arabic Original ]

As a follow-up to this controversy, the following words from Archimandrite Touma were published on his Web site on August 21, 2005. [ Arabic original ]

On August 4 of this year [2005], most of the priests of the Archdiocese of Tripoli gathered with the blessing of His Eminence the shepherd of the archdiocese, in the metropolitan’s headquarters and discussed some of the teachings of the Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi in his book Introduction to the New Testament. Following this, they came to this conclusion: "We find in accordance with the Orthodox faith and relying on our knowledge of the Holy Bible and the teachings of our Orthodox Church that they are erroneous teachings." On this basis they made the following two proposals to His Eminence the shepherd of the archdiocese:

1. "To halt Fr. Paul Tarazi starting today from teaching in the parishes of our archdiocese and especially in the parish of Enfeh now, until a study and correction of his teaching has been reached by the highest authority in the Church."

2. "That you please raise our concerns about his teachings to the Holy Synod of Antioch at its next session, in order to adopt an appropriate decision about this matter."

The meeting ended with the words:

"With the knowledge that these two recommendations were made with the agreement of all the priests present."

For years the Holy Synod has not found it necessary [to act according to this agreement], nor have any of the bishops written a single corrective word about the Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi. This is despite the fact that one of them has verbally expressed his reservations and even his rejection of some of his theses in a number of places. Up to this date, one of the bishops prevents the Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi from teaching in his diocese. Some of his thoughts have provoked debate and division among the faithful, especially among the youth. Has the time not come for those who are entrusted with keeping the orthodoxy of teaching in the Church, to grant us a word resolving, or at least clarifying, the issue? We are certain that a refutation of some of the Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi’s ideas do not require specialization in Biblical studies so much as they require awareness of the basics of Orthodox teaching. This is sufficient to clarify the ambiguity, if not the excess and finally the corruption, that mars the thinking of the Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi. Our fear is that some of the bishops, in leaving the field open for the current debate, have not read some of what he has written, though they are the primary source asked to clearly proclaim truths. If they had read it, like the priests of the Archdiocese of Tripoli did, then they would have an opinion and it would be decisive. Our question is, if the bishops refrain from what is their primary competence, then to whom can we turn?

* * *

I ask your forgiveness, but this boil must be popped. It is better for us to feel a little pain than to let the boil grow and threaten the whole body.

The greatest danger we face in our Church today is gossip and indifference. Gossip threatens all common sense and indifference threatens any sense of Orthodoxy and its practice.

For years Fr. Paul Tarazi through his books, his studies, and his lectures—or at least some of them—has been controversial among us. Some are impressed with him and some become his students. Some disapprove of his theses and some go so far as to consider him not only a liberal in a conservative, traditionalist church but also a heretic. A liberal Protestant in the Orthodox Church.

Those who have taken his courses in the St. John of Damascus Institute over the years have reported about him, or perhaps have unfairly reported against him, things that provoke questions and surprise. When we asked about this, we were told something we did not expect. We were told that he gives no weight to the Holy Fathers as interpreters of the Holy Scriptures and that he has an unacceptable opinion about the relationship between the Bible and the tradition of the Church. His opinion is closer to sola scriptura, that is the belief that the Holy Scriptures alone have authority in the Church. Likewise we were told that he attacked some of the Holy Fathers and accused them of ignorance and described them in a contemptible way that should not be repeated or heard because it injures the conscience of the Church and challenges her holiness. They also said that he taught, among other things, that the word of God is created.

Positions about the opinions of Paul Tarazi have sharpened recently, since the publication of his book with the title “An Introduction to the New Testament Part One: Paul and Mark.” This was translated from English into Arabic by Nicholas Abu Mrad and was published by Manshurat al-Nur al-Urthudhuksiyya during the first half of this year, 2001.

Injustice is not permitted within the Church, nor is sewing discord. So if knowledge is necessary for the Orthodox Church and the preservation of its tradition, then it is incumbent upon us and upon others, especially when rumors run quickly and steadily grow and the matter remains serious, to speak the truth. Our highest authorities especially need to “rightly divide the word of truth” and preserve Orthodoxy and protect the right belief o f the faithful. If Paul Tarazi is within the sphere of truth, then vindicate him, and if he is not then stop him in his tracks. It is not for him or for anyone else to trifle with holy things!

Indeed, what Tarazi proposes is no longer limited to him. Some of his students have started to expand and develop the teaching of ‘the teacher’ into something even worse! What was hidden is revealed! People spread this within their circles of influence, threatening to dilute Orthodox teaching, to corrupt it, to deny it, and to completely attack the Church from within. Thus we must put an end to this gossip and we must exit the circle of indifference. The text of the book mentioned above, Tarazi’s book, is in front of us. We will let the texts speak for themselves. My fear is that most of those responsible did not read the book or read it in a hurry. For this reason they stay quiet and do not take the matter seriously. Our careful reading of it leads us to feel that Tarazi’s theses are an even greater danger to the soundness of the faith than is thought. The issue is not, as some think, a matter of personal opinion within the Orthodox faith. It is a matter of private opinion attacking the Orthodox faith.

Paul Tarazi: His view of himself and his work

When we started to read Paul Tarazi’s book, we stopped in the introduction when he says in the fourth paragraph before the last page (p. 17), that Paul—meaning Saint Paul the Apostle!—is his only father in Jesus Christ. I was astonished and wondered, “What?! Why?!” What does this statement mean? Perhaps it’s an emotional spasm. But the man is a prominent researcher and we did not attribute it to adolescent enthusiasm. I remembered the words of the chosen Apostle to the Corinthians, “I begat you in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Perhaps he meant a bond with the chosen Apostle like the bond the Corinthians had with him? But the Corinthians knew no one before the Apostle. He brought them the Gospel and this is not the case with Tarazi. Tarazi received it from the Holy Fathers. Perhaps he meant that he adopts the mind of the Apostle and applies it? But who among us if he is of Christ does not adopt the mind of the apostle and apply it? But is the mind of the Apostle not the mind of Christ itself? Did he not say, “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him, but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Despite that, to whom among us does it occur to consider himself a son of one of the apostles exclusively, to the exclusion of the rest, lest he be found to be a partisan and thus rebuked by the chosen Apostle himself where he warned the Corinthians against allowing schisms and against one of them saying “’I am of Paul,’ and another ‘I am of Apollos’... For who is Paul and who is Apollos other than servants through whom you have believed... All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas but you are of Christ and Christ is of God” (1 Cor. 3: 4, 5, 21, 22, 23). So what does Tarazi mean by this statement, so uncustomary among the people of the house of God?

I did not understand until after I read the book, his book. Most of the twelve apostles, for Paul Tarazi, were null because they fell into error! This is actually what the book tells you! Among those he denies are prominent emblems of the Church like the Holy Apostles Peter and James, the brother of the Lord, and John, whom Christ loved, who were called pillars of the Church in Jerusalem. As for him, there is a gospel that Tarazi does not hold back from spreading, which he calls “the Gospel of Paul.” You find him consistently using the expression to the degree that he equates “the Gospel of Paul” and “the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” “The Gospel of Paul”, in Tarazi’s view, is the only gospel that preserves the faith of Jesus Christ. Tarazi uses the term “gospel”—though not exclusively (p. 162)—with the meaning of teaching and belief. In his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3, he states absolutely, relying on the pivotal subject of the Epistle to the Galatians, “There is one gospel... and his gospel [that is, the Gospel of Paul] is the only gospel based on scripture and that anything that does not agree with it is cut off from Christ forever” (pp. 216-217). “The only True Messiah”, for him, “is the one who is preached in the Pauline Gospel” (p. 300). In Tarazi’s estimation, the Pauline Gospel “is the one true gospel sent to both groups [that is, to the Jews and the gentiles]” (p. 164). The Pauline gospel, for him, is the measure of orthodoxy even for the Apostle Peter himself, (p. 311, crucifixion and death).

What are the contents of “the Gospel of Paul”? But before that, what led Tarazi to adopt such an aberrant attitude towards the chosen Apostle on the one hand, and towards all the other apostles on the other hand? This is what we will explain in the following sections of this study of ours. At this point, we can say that in the eyes of Tarazi, the entire New Testament—with a few exceptions—“is a single literary production” and that just like “Ezekiel and his school was behind the entire Old Testament, Paul and his disciples wrote the writings that came to be known as the New Testament” (p. 15).

The series of introductions to the New Testament of which this book that we are investigating is the first part, is not, in Tarazi’s estimation, “an introduction to the Bible resembling any other introduction. “It does not summarize and does not cite current scholarly opinions about the texts...” (p. 16). Its principle of interpretation, as it appears, basically rests on his entrenched personal opinion, the result of “years of study and research” (p. 15).

The Tarazian focus in this series is on two things:

    On the basic intent of each one of the writings [that is, the books of the New Testament] and their subject—the first message that the author wants to get across. And on the literary techniques used to convey the thought to its readers and hearers (p. 16).

Given that there is a primary message and a secondary message or messages behind the writing of each one of the books of the New Testament, and likewise there are literary techniques without which their meaning is incomplete, the goal of Paul Tarazi in writing this introduction—the basic goal—is “to give the reader” according to his estimation “a key to understanding each text like all” (p. 16).

Paul Tarazi closes the introduction to his book with a curious statement. He says, “This difficult work that is reflected in this section cannot be the result of vanity. It is an expression of God’s love for them [meaning his readers and his wife] to which I was commanded through Paul” (p. 17). Is the work the result of vanity or is it an expression of God’s love for me and for you, in Paul Tarazi, my brother reader? He is the one who poses the question in this way. Let us see and let us judge on the basis of the Orthodox faith.

Tarazi’s Thesis

Tarazi’s thesis centers on the relationship of the Apostle Paul to the Church of Jerusalem especially and to the Jews being converted throughout the world in general.

After the preaching of the Gospel, in the beginning, had been restricted to the Jews alone, a group of those who were scattered shortly after the martyrdom of the Deacon Stephen (Acts 11:19 and following) started to preach to the gentiles, telling them the good news of Jesus Christ. The circle widened and in Antioch the Holy Spirit instructed that Barnabas and Saul (that is, the Apostle Paul) be set apart for a work He had prepared for them (Acts 13:2-3). From that point on, Paul and Barnabas distinctively became the evangelizers of the gentiles.

When they reached Antioch, after a missionary tour they had undertaken, and informed the Church there that God had opened the faith to the gentiles (Acts 14:27), a group of Jews began to teach the newly converted from among the gentiles that if they were not circumcised according to the custom of Moses then they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). This stirred up a not insignificant argument between Paul and Barnabas and between him and that group that resulted in the meeting known as “the Council of Jerusalem”. It included Paul and Barnabas and those with them as well as the apostles and elders of the Church there. The subject of the discussion was: are those who are converted to Christ from among the gentiles required to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses in addition to their faith in Jesus Christ? The discussion went on until, through the help of the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 15:28), it was decided that gentiles were exempt from the obligations of the Law except that they should refrain from what was sacrificed to idols, blood, strangled animals, and fornication (Acts 15: 29). However Paul and Barnabas remembered the poor (Galatians 2:10). On this basis James, Cephas, and John, considered pillars, gave Paul and Barnabas the right to cooperate, to be for the gentiles and they for the circumcised.

But, according to the Epistle to the Galatians (Chapter 2), “a group came from James” (Gal. 2:12) to Antioch and Peter preceded them there. Before their arrival he would eat with the gentiles without reservation. The Jews who followed the Mosaic Law did not accept him, since it was forbidden to Jews to have dealings with outsiders (Acts 10:28). The Apostle Peter’s reaction was to set himself apart out of fear of those circumcised. The text of Galatians says that the Jews acted hypocritically along with Peter and even Barnabas was won over to their opinion, (Gal. 2:12-13). Paul, for his part, resisted Peter to his face “because he was blameworthy” (Gal. 2:11).

Up to this point there is not any difficulty arising from Paul Tarazi’s opinion. The difficulty begins when Tarazi sets aside his reading of the texts in favor of conclusions that force upon the texts what they do not say, adding on to them things they do not imply. Tarazi’s reading of the Epistles to the Galatians, the Philippians, the Romans, the Corinthians, the Colossians, and the second Epistle of the Thessalonians makes him deduce that the enmity between Paul and Peter and the Church in Jerusalem was entrenched. The leadership in Jerusalem, including the pillars Peter, James, and John rejected the agreement in Jerusalem and continued to require gentile converts to keep the Mosaic Law. This rivalry, as Tarazi puts it, did not cease to disturb the Apostle Paul (p. 204). The leadership in Jerusalem, in the end, rejected the gospel of Paul until after his death (p. 211), absolutely (p. 39).

In light of this new reality, the Apostle Paul held fast to his gospel, according to Tarazi, and decided to preach it until the end. What happened at the meeting in Jerusalem “happened through God’s guidance” (p. 68) and it was encountered in “the teaching of Paul” (p. 67). So if the others went astray and went back on the agreement, that was their affair. He, Saint Paul, practiced his gospel until the end. Thus the Apostle, in Paul Tarazi’s view, became the sole preserver of “the truth of the Gospel” because he considered him the strongest authority expressing the voice and will of God (p. 26).

When the chosen Apostle became, according to Tarazi, alone and targeted, he feared for the gentile churches that he established. From that point, he started writing to them with the intention of leaving after him a bible that would be an interpretation of what is in the Bible. In the words of Paul Tarazi, “the purpose behind Paul’s epistles themselves was to be used as a bible from the moment they were written” (p. 46). At that time, the Bible meant the writings that today we call “the Old Testament.” In order for the Apostle to guarantee that his churches would not fall into the hands of the Judaizers, the Holy Spirit the spirit of prophesy increased within them and revealed, as Tarazi expresses it, “the biblical element of the Holy Spirit... so as not to give the Church in Jerusalem chances to dominate them” (p. 45). According to Tarazi, the Apostle’s statement to the Thessalonians should be understood within this framework, “our Gospel did not only come to you in words, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and strong conviction” (1 Thes. 1:5). Likewise his appeal to them, “quench not the spirit. Despise not the prophesies” (1 Thes. 5:19-20) and his statement that they themselves “are taught by God” (1 Thes. 9:4) in Tarazi’s opinion are a call to what appears in the prophesy of Jeremiah, (Jer. 31:31-34)where the Lord says of his people that he will place His law in their minds and write it on their hearts and no longer will each one teach his neighbor and each one his brother saying, “know the Lord,” because all of them will know Me from the least to the greatest of them. Likewise in Tarazi’s commentary on First Corinthians he says that Paul taught that the gentiles, because they received the Holy Spirit, are not required follow the authority of any power centered in Jerusalem (p. 87).

Then the Apostle reposed and his helpers under the leadership of Timothy gathered the epistles that had written and they became “the source of authority in his gospel,” in Tarazi’s words, and the Apostle was present in them “in power even after his death” (p. 170). The Pauline school undertook to add to this collection “a series of additional epistles” in the same line of teaching that they attributed to the Apostle’s name “out of respect for him” (p. 171). Among these epistles are the epistles to the Colossians and the second epistle to Timothy.

The matter doesn’t stop here regarding the leadership of the Pauline group, as Tarazi affirms that “they must have decided... that the inheritance from Paul was not sufficient even with the works added to it... and they decided it was necessary to write a view of Christ, the subject and content of Paul’s preaching, more systematically” (p. 172). So just like the school of Ezekiel, in Tarazi’s imagination, produced the Torah to advance a more systematic view of the teaching of the prophets as scriptures, the production of the Gospel of Mark was similarly achieved in order to shed light on the teaching of the Pauline gospel (p. 171). Mark, in Tarazi’s consideration, was one of the leaders of the Pauline group (p. 172) and was even “the new leader for the Pauline disciples” (p. 323). On what basis does Tarazi determine that the Gospel of Mark is more systematic than the epistles of the Apostle Paul? This is not at all clear and Tarazi finds no reason to claim this.

Whatever the case may be, Mark, or whoever wrote the Gospel of Mark—and Mark is not necessarily the one who wrote the gospel named after him according to Tarazi—wanted “to create a story for Christ” (p. 181). By this he means for it “from the beginning to be scripture and to be read in the gentile churches and in the hope that it would also be read in the Jerusalemite Church in its new location outside Jerusalem” (p. 176). Mark, in Tarazi’s imagination, hoped to break the connection between the Jewish Christians and the Jews when they left Jerusalem. Tarazi’s use of words when he discusses Mark’s purpose of constructing his gospel as the creation of a story for Jesus and his work in order for this book to be scripture and “to turn Paul’s Christ into a book” and to “make Paul’s teaching into scripture and a canon” (p. 198).

Tarazi does not stop at this level of imagination, based on novelistic fiction and not on scripture. He strains his imagination further and fancies that the basic goal behind the writing of the Gospel of Mark was to be “a Markian epistle to Peter and his followers” (p. 174). Its purpose is to “push Peter into Paul’s camp” (p. 173) since he considered him to be less of a hard-liner than James. James, in Tarazi’s reckoning, is “the leader of pillars speaking in the name of God and the most prominent figure in Jerusalem” (pp. 144-145), but the Jews held fast to their Jewishness (p. 29). In Tarazi’s imagination, this lies behind the Pauline group’s effort at securing an appropriate replacement for the Apostle Paul after his death. After Tarazi emphasized on page 170 that Paul was present in power in his epistle even after his death he retracts this on page 173 and states that the written word in the collected epistles did not “carry the same weight as if Paul were alive.” The death of the Apostle Paul left the gentile churches in an unstable position without an apostle to support them. For this reason they were forced “to create another means of support” (p. 172) and after searching and comparison, the Apostle Peter appeared as the desired object of their search: a worthy replacement apostle. The Gospel of Mark was a coded epistle to him and to his followers (p. 311) to get them to agree and influence “James and the entire leadership in Jerusalem” (p. 173) to return them to the right path. I say a coded epistle—the expression is not Tarazi’s—because Mark, in Tarazi’s estimation, Mark did not speak to Peter’s followers and the Jerusalemites plainly, but by using the style of the Torah. He concealed the message in the Hebrew language and put it in the background and hid it. He intended it but showed a different outward message and this is exactly what he did. On the outward level he spoke about Jesus and his teaching in the form of stories but on the inner level he said something different, a different message via the stories that he composed about Jesus and the way in which he formed his teaching through them and the names that he invented and gave to characters in his gospel to fit his aims. It pleases Paul Tarazi to hypothesize the matter in this way, to call the symbols, implications, means, and styles that he claims Mark utilized, “literary techniques” (p. 16). Paul Tarazi, in this context, puts forward his whim and his knowledge as the key to the symbols and the solution to the puzzles (p. 205) and the revealer of the games with letters and words (pp. 203-312). Symbolic words and expressions, depictions and allusions, “what Mark means to say” and “the meaning”, and the like fill the book (pp. 205, 206, 207, 213, 234, 242), to the point that the reader can no longer determine when the symbolic plane is in the air and when it crashes to earth!

Thus, as Tarazi imagines it, Mark kills three birds with one stone: he sent a coded message to Peter and his followers and all the other leaders in Jerusalem, he wrote a story for Jesus to be read in the Pauline gatherings just like the prophecies, and as the word of God (p. 180). He preserves the story itself for the Church of Jerusalem if it does not decide to return from its error and leave the land of the Jews for the new land of the gentiles. And this, in short, is Tarazi’s thesis. But what does he mean by “the Gospel of Paul”?

The Gospel of Paul

The expression “the Gospel of Paul” does not occur in any of the books of the New Testament. Paul only refers to what he calls “my gospel” in two places: Romans 2:16 and Second Timothy 2:8. He does not limit himself to using the phrase in the singular but also uses it in the plural, “our gospel” two times: Second Corinthians 4:3 and First Thessalonians 1:5). In addition to this, he uses the word “gospel” many times, including “the gospel of the glory of Christ”, “the gospel of salvation”, “the gospel of peace”, “the gospel of the glory of God”, and “the gospel of the Son of God”. There is nothing to indicate that the Apostles use of the expression “my gospel” is something specific to him to the exclusion of other words and expressions. Despite this, Paul Tarazi is pleased to single it out and derive from it the expression “the Gospel of Paul”. Tarazi makes this the name of the basic subject of the books New Testament and their slogan and the hidden power behind their writing in that for him it eclipses the expression “the gospel of Jesus Christ”, envelopes it, and obviates it.

As we said before, the meaning of the word gospel, in the epistles of the Apostle Paul, according to Tarazi, is teaching and faith. However, the Gospel of Paul has many elements, the most prominent of which are four:

1. That the cross of Jesus is the essential element of the plan of salvation that God achieved in the latter days in the city of Jerusalem, realizing what he had promised in the book of consolation of Israel (Isaiah 40-55) (p. 24).

2. That Isaiah’s message is not an internal Jewish matter, but a matter for the God of the whole world. God is for the Jews and the gentiles equally (p. 25) and all must unconditionally accept Him.

3. That man is made righteous through faith and not through the works of the Law (Romans 3:28). “God is one and He will justify the circumcised through faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:30). For this reason circumcision and the other decrees of the Law are not required for gentiles in order to be a part of the people of God and are not sufficient for the Jews.

4. That the gentiles bear their gifts as a sign that God wrought His salvation in the city of Jerusalem (p. 29) realizing what He promised through His prophets about the latter days. This offering for the Lord of Jerusalem is the essential element of the word of salvation as it appears in Isaiah (p. 33).

Paul’s Adversaries

Despite Paul Tarazi’s assurance that only a part of the Jewish Christians, or the majority of them, were the ones who rejected the Apostle Paul’s interpretation (p. 164), he does not distinguish between one group and another in his attack on them. He gives a number of names for them: the Church of Jerusalem (pp. 101-102), the leaders (p. 126), the leaders of the Church (p. 37), the Jerusalemite leaders (p. 39), the Jewish Christian leaders (p. 40), Paul’s adversaries (p. 39), the authorities in Jerusalem (p. 40), James and his followers and James and Jerusalem (pp. 151-152), the apostates (p. 164), the camp of James and Barnabas (p. 165). Peter was one of them (pp. 214-215) and so was Andrew (p. 293). Paul Tarazi even puts the Jews in the same column as the Jewish Christians (pp. 254, 282).

Tarazi’s Allegations, Illusions, and Novelistic Fabrications

What happens in the Epistle to the Galatians, after the agreement in Jerusalem, is that “a group from James” came to Antioch. Before that, Peter had been eating with the gentiles, but when they came he started separating himself out of fear of the circumcised. The rest of the Jews joined in his hypocrisy and even Barnabas was won over to their opinion (Gal. 2:11-13). Tarazi derives from this and other texts here and there things that cannot be derived.

1. “A group from James” becomes for him “James’ men” (p. 24). Neither the text here nor anywhere else defines who this group is. Paul Tarazi himself, is content to refer to them without determining their identity (p. 164). However, it is clear that there was a group among the brothers in Jerusalem who said that it is necessary for gentiles “to be circumcised and they commanded them to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). Do these words mean that all those who were in Jerusalem were of this opinion? Naturally not! Then who were those who came to Antioch before the agreement in Jerusalem and caused that quarrel with Paul and Barnabas? The beginning of chapter 15 of the book of Acts says that a group came from the Jews and started to teach the brothers such-and-such (Acts 15:1). Does this mean that they were an official delegation from the leadership in Jerusalem sent for exactly this purpose? Of course not! The message that the apostles, elders and brothers sent—naturally among them the pillars—made the matter clear in a few words. They said, “since we have heard that some went out from us and disturbed you with troubling words saying that you should be circumcised and follow the Law: we did not command them so.”

This group that the Apostle Paul mentions in Galatians are not James’ men and they were not necessarily sent by him. Even if we conceded in an argument that he sent them, what do you think their concern was? One can pose many questions in this way and not find a definitive response. Thus there is nothing to justify Tarazi’s orientation in interpreting this matter.

On the contrary, James’ position was clear, not only in the Council of Jerusalem, but also throughout the Apostle Paul’s final visit to Jerusalem. This came at the close of his three missionary journeys. In Acts 15, James supports Simon’s statement about God’s visiting the gentiles (verses 14 and 15) and commands “not to trouble those among the gentiles who return to God” (verse 19). In Acts 21, when the Apostle Paul and his companions arrive in Jerusalem the brothers there received them with joy “and the next day Paul went with us to James and all the elders were present.” After greeting, “he declared to them each thing that God did among the gentiles through his service.” And what was their reaction? “They glorified God” (verse 20). In light of this, do the feelings between Paul and James seem to be that of rivalry, provocation, camps, conflict and partisanship, as Tarazi tries to imagine? The exaggeration, no—the slander—in his thesis is clear. The Apostle Paul did not utter a single word that accused James of error. And when he mentions him again with all the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15, he confesses that Christ appeared to Cephas and the Twelve Apostles and to James and the others.

2. What is said of James is also said of the Apostle Peter. It is true that Peter in Galatians 2:11 and what follows erred and his position, as the Apostle Paul explains it, was that the gentiles were required to follow Jewish custom (Gal. 2:14). But why did Peter behave in the way he did? Is it because he changed his opinion in principle and betrayed Jesus, as Tarazi accuses him (pp. 214-215)? These are very serious words! Why is it that he did not say these things out of human weakness? Why was his position not out of pastoral concern? Why should we not, along with Chrysostom, consider that he took this position acting as though he accepted the opinion of some Jewish Christians who were under his care along with the other Jewish Christians (Gal. 2:7) although he knew the wrongness of their position, so that in joining himself to them, God could rebuke them through Paul’s words to him (see the sermon of Chrysostom on verse twelve in his interpretation of Galatians 2)?! Then was Peter considered unclean, from the resurrection of Christ to that time? The Acts of the Apostles never indicate this. Even his dealings with the gentiles were characterized by humility, clarity and courage. Was his entering the house of the centurion Cornelius in Acts 10 after the divine vision and divine command not sufficient proof of his blessed position toward the gentiles? From the beginning of his speech to Cornelius and his household, is it not made clear in truth that he finds that God is not a respecter of persons, but that He accepts all those who honor Him and work righteousness in ever people (Acts 10:34-35)? Then when the Holy Spirit rested upon those there, did he not baptize them (verses 47 and 48)? Then when those circumcised opposed him after his return to Jerusalem from Caesarea, did he not hold to his position towards the gentiles with all courage, knowing that it is from God and certain that “for as much as God gave them the same gifts as He gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, am I able to stop God?” (Acts 11:17). Was his position at the Council of Jerusalem not sufficiently clear and honorable? Even when Paul rebuked him in Antioch (Gal. 2), in what did he judge him? He simply said “he was blameworthy” (verse 11). Why did he not say that he fell or that he betrayed the Teacher? Why did he not give him over to the devil like he did with others (1 Tim. 1:20)? What remains so great in this matter to inspire Tarazi?

After all these clear and frank positions taken by the Apostle Peter, upon what does Paul Tarazi rely in his judgment of him that in the end he betrayed the Teacher (pp. 214-215) and fell?

3. The subject of the gentiles’ offerings. From where does Tarazi come to the conclusion that the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem refused the money that the Apostle Paul collected for the sake of “the poor” which was the cause of the final break between him and them (p. 37)? Then on what basis does Tarazi connect the issue of money, its acceptance or rejection, with the subject of cooperation between the two groups? What is his evidence? What we know for sure from the biblical text on the testimony of the chosen Apostle, is that the pillars of Jerusalem when they gave him and Barnabas the right to cooperate, to be for the gentiles, they asked them to remember the poor. The Apostle’s immediate response was that that was exactly what he undertook (Gal. 2). As for the opinion that James’ group went back on their position and rejected the offerings of the gentiles, there is nothing to support it. What can be observed in the pattern of Paul Tarazi’s thought, is that he begins by proposing an idea, a feeling, then the feeling becomes a hypothesis, then the hypothesis becomes an axiom, then the axiom become a foregone conclusion, then the foregone conclusion becomes a basic principle. He piles on sources and scriptural citations ad nauseam, but if you read closely what he is proposing, it becomes clear that he resembles an air-horn, noise but no content. Go over closely one example of the evidence that Tarazi puts forward for the conclusions he makes. He says, “Despite all the effort that Paul expended, his failure in Jerusalem was great. James and his group refused to accept the money that Paul and the gentiles had gathered” (p. 36). According to his statements, Tarazi deduces James’ rejection on the basis of four claims:

a. The change in language between the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Philippians. What does that mean? God knows! Be the reader is referred to footnote number 1. What does the footnote say? “Refer to the upcoming commentary on these two epistles.” We looked at the commentary that he points us to and we found, especially on pages 144 and 152 a commentary on the subject. What did we see? The commentary on Romans 11:25-36 says that Paul came to Jerusalem bearing the offerings of the gentiles and that this was a golden opportunity to soften James’ heart to the message of the Gospel and that accepting the offerings would mean that James admitted completely the legitimacy of Paul’s gospel and that God’s promise in Isaiah had been realized and that this was a call for the Jews to follow in James’ anticipated footsteps (pp. 144-145). Then we turned to Tarazi’s commentary on Philippians (pp. 151-152) and what did we find? We found that Paul’s offering to the Jews—it appears that he means the Jewish Christians—was refused. How? Why? There is no proof and no explanation! So we returned to page 36 to see the second proof, or should we say the second assertion.

b. Tarazi makes his deduction from observing what he calls the “change” in Acts 18:22 where the Bible does not attach importance to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem: “When he went to Caesarea, he went up and greeted the Church then returned to Antioch.” Why should this mean that James and his group refused the money? If the Bible does not attach importance to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in this spot, does this mean that Paul broke with Jerusalem? The Bible might have other reasons for not expanding on the story of the chosen Apostle’s visit to Jerusalem that neither we nor Tarazi know. Did Paul not visit Jerusalem after his three missionary journeys? How was he received? Did the brothers not receive him with joy? Did James and all the elders not gather with him and give glory to God for what they heard from him (Acts 21:17-20) about what God did among the gentiles through his service?

c. Then Tarazi observes in the words of Acts 18:22-23 evidence of the chosen Apostle’s withdrawal to Antioch “where a break occurred between him and the other apostles.” Does its saying about the Apostle that, “after he spent some time [in Antioch], he went out...” indicate that Paul had failed in Jerusalem? Is that true? I don’t see how! Even if there is something that the text is not saying here, then this allows one to record an observation and a question only. You do not build on what the text does not say but on what it says. You do not have the right to interpolate yourself into what goes on within the text. If you do, you slip into an impressionistic retelling. Even if we admit the value of these questions and impressions, do we have the right to derive from them an opinion of this magnitude and importance and precision and gravity? What logic allows secure upper floors to be built on pure impressions and opinions?! Are these upper floors not just imaginary?!

d. One might ask: Did the Jews reject on principle to receive money and aid for their poor from gentiles? If this was the case, then the pillars of Jerusalem would not have asked Paul and Barnabas to remember the poor and Paul would not have immediately responded. It was forbidden for Jews to mix with or visit a foreigner (Acts 10:28) but this does not show that it was forbidden for him to accept kindness and alms from him. The elders of the Jews, not ordinary people, came to Jesus for the sake of the centurion whose servant was sick in Luke 7 and asked Him to heal him. They said that it was fitting to do this for him “because he loves our people and he built a synagogue for us” (verse 5). Did not the gentile Cornelius do “many good things for the people”? Did his alms not rise up as a remembrance before God (Acts 10:4,2)? And when Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem, came to Antioch and told through the Spirit about the famine that was about to happen in the whole world, did he not bind the disciples there, according to the means of each, to each send something to help “the brothers who live in Judea. Which they did, and sent to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11)? Were the disciples who sent the aid only from among the Jews? The context indicates that the Jews and Gentiles were together, that is that the Jewish and gentile Christians were equal.

4. Then, on what does Tarazi rely in what he says about what happened after the death of the Apostle? Timothy’s leadership of Paul’s group and the Pauline school’s writing a series of letters that they attribute to him. This is pure speculation and has no data to support it. The fantasy that Tarazi proposes is closer to Bible fiction than to scholarly research. Mark becomes one of the leaders of the Pauline group, even “the new leader of the Pauline disciples” (p. 323). He, or the one who wrote the gospel known by his name, under his supervision or under the supervision of Timothy. If that is true, that he wrote the gospel on the basis of a group decision—“they must have decided” (p. 172)—how can you be sure of something like this?! And then the reasons that led to the group making so great a plan (p. 172). And then what he says about writing a more systematic view of Jesus than the epistles. I do not know in what way the Gospel of Mark is more systematic than the epistles of Paul! Then the Pauline group’s fear and their need for an apostle to support them. How can one imagine that the choice fell on Peter as a replacement apostle because he was less hard-line in his opinion than the others? Remarkable! On page 214, Tarazi accuses the Apostle Peter of, in the end, betraying Jesus and His message and on page 263 that he had little faith and on page 266 that he nearly committed “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” and on page 204 that his position against Paul had been such “for a long time.” Suddenly he remembers Mark’s connection to him, “a natural link between Paul’s following and Peter’s group” (p. 173). Suddenly Peter becomes a new promise and a new acquisition and a new hope. As God wills! Tarazi goes on in his optimism to the point of assuring on page 305 that he will return (like Mark returned) to the fold to preach the Lord crucified and risen after he had distanced himself from it temporarily. But who said that Peter was alive when Paul reposed? We only know according to early sources that they were both martyred in the time of Nero between the years 63 and 67 or 68. So when was the Gospel of Mark written? At the beginning of Tarazi’s introduction to the second part of the book (p. 161), he says that scholars agree that the Book of Mark was not written until after the year 65. After the year 65 could mean a lot! Can we build our scriptural theories on a shaky set of dates? Or does chronology have no importance for Tarazi? If you did not know this, and you assume that, that what you wind up giving us pure theory, pure speculation to enjoy!

5. And this message that Tarazi claims was the basic purpose of the Gospel of Mark. If Mark wanted to send a message to Peter and his group and to the leadership in Jerusalem through it, then why did he send it in the style of the Torah? Is that how one addresses people? Perhaps a group might resort to this style to protect itself from persecution from an authority that wishes it evil! This is what happened with the Book of Revelation according to what researchers say. If Mark was the natural link between the Pauline group and Peter, then why was he not a direct intermediary going between them? Why did he not speak in direct and simple words? Why the insinuations and word-games? Did this help to convey the message or just make it more like a puzzle? Such speculation is artificial and neither realistic nor convincing!

Even if we accepted for the sake of argument the feasibility of using the style of the Torah to send this message, what permits the repeated accusations against Peter and the Jewish Christians that they were in error and committed betrayal and thievery and other evil things, even blasphemy? Indeed, even if someone wanted to send a message to a rival to make peace with him, then he would use kindness and the softest words, not the most defamatory and the most hurtful and evil characteristics. Tarazi claims that it is a message from Mark to Peter and his group, and then on the ground you see him using texts in an esoteric way in his attempt to prove the truthfulness of his theory about this purported conflict that he continuously talks about from the opening of the book!

And then this flaccid symbolism that Tarazi traffics, that makes no distinction between known and accepted biblical symbolism and connections made by conspiracy theorists, nor any distinction between the Bible and imagination. As Tarazi imagines it, the Gospel of Mark is like a broken record, constantly repeating: Gospel of Paul, Gospel of Paul, Gospel of Paul! The man—I mean Tarazi in his reading of Mark—is obsessed with Paul. He sees Paul in everything and everything for him points to Paul or something connected to Paul. Even the Lord Jesus, John the Baptist, the Prophet Elijah, the son of Abraham, Moses, and others all point to Paul for him. These amazingly strange similarities that Tarazi expends great effort in demonstrating, is their basis in scripture or in Tarazi’s fruitful imagination? Why should Jesus’ going out to the desert (Mark 1:12) “close to Jerusalem” (p. 196) be an image of Paul’s going to Arabia instead of Jerusalem? Why should Mark’s purpose in recounting the arrest and death of John the Baptist before Christ’s trip to Galilee be “an indirect allusion” (p. 197) to Paul’s death and a confirmation that Jesus’ return will be shortly after this death? Why should what Mark says about Simon and Andrew when they saw Jesus as they cast their nets by the Sea of Galilee “a very clever allusion to the behavior of the Apostles towards Paul and his gospel” (p. 199)? Is it because the Greek word translated “cast their nets” also carries the meaning “to fluctuate” and “to doubt”? Senseless and unpersuasive words! The derived term “Tarzanic” [ar. Tarzani] in Arabic is connected to our friend Tarazi. Does this establish a connection between him and Tarzan? So some words sound similar and some words have multiple meanings, so by what right does he emphasize this and ignore those, such that it becomes evidence for that? Then there are some things here that really make you laugh and cannot be serious! Why should the tied donkey in Mark 11:4, the one that the Lord Jesus sent two of His disciples to request, have for him this strange meaning that it represents “the young Jewish Christian group”? A tied donkey because this group had not yet been freed by following the Gospel of Paul (p. 283)?! These are not the words of a rational man! By proposing these things, Paul Tarazi is just treading the ground of the obsessive fantasy and imagination that guides him, not the ground of Holy Scripture! His knowledge of the Bible is excellent, no doubt, but he uses it within a whimsical framework. His invention tries to persuade that what he is imagining is reality, but the truth is a far cry from such whimsy! Truth and argument are not of the same nature. Knowledge is not what supports truth, rather the way in which you use knowledge! Knowledge and argument can end up leading to error and corruption! There is no doubt about this.

There is no basis to what he says.

It is not just the biblical basis that is shaky in Tarazi’s narrative. There is also absolutely no historical basis for it. It would be natural for the sharp disagreements between the Apostle Paul and his rivals, so absolute as Tarazi describes it, to be reflected in subsequent Church history. An examination of the historical data does not demonstrate this. No known fact tells of strong disagreement and rampant schism between the Holy Apostles. Nor do we find any Orthodox church that accuses any one of the apostles of disbelief. Below is some of the historical information that is available to us:

a. Saint Hegessipus (April 7), who reposed around the year 180, and whose material is used by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesial History mentions that “after the martyrdom of the Righteous James [the Brother of the Lord, bishop of Jerusalem], just as the Lord was killed before him, Simon son of Cleopas, the uncle of the Lord was made the second bishop.” After this Hegessipus observes that until that point they called the Church “a virgin because she had not yet been defiled by idle disputes.” He also talks about, in his discussion of the ancient heresies that arose among the Jews, about there being among the Children of Israel “differing opinions concerning circumcision” (Ecclesial History 4:22).

b. Saint Ignatius of Antioch (+117) warns against the Judaizers (Philadelphians 6:1), but he mentions the Apostles Peter and Paul with honor in his letter to the Romans (Romans 4).

c. Saint Justin Martyr (around 165) distinguishes two groups of Judaizers: those who keep the Law of Moses but do not require other Christians to do so, among whom he counts himself, and those who hold that the Law of Moses is necessary for all those who believe in Jesus. He considers the latter heretics. (Dialog with Trypho 47)

d. Saint Pappias, bishop of Hieropolis (+130) brings to our attention that Mark wrote his gospel in Rome at the request of the Christians there who wanted to have a written testimony of the teaching of Saint Peter and his disciples. Saint Irenaeus of Leon (around 170) along with Clement of Alexandria confirm this.

e. Saint Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians at the end of the first century talks about the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul along with a number of others that he calls “the chosen ones” in the time of Nero’s persecution. Saint Dionysius of Cornith (+170) states that they were martyred at the same time and Saint Irenaeus of Leon mentions them together as “the glorious Apostles.”

f. On the basis of ancient witnesses, some historians like Erbes show that the Apostle Peter was martyred before Saint Paul (see the Catholic Encyclopedia sv. Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles).

g. The earliest Roman record of the names of the saints, the Chronograph of Philocalus, shows that the memory of Saints Peter and Paul was celebrated in Rome on the same day, July 29. The date of the record goes back to the year 258.

h. Saint Justin Martyr (+165) in his Dialog with Trypho (section 81) refers to “John, one of the Apostles” as a contemporary witness. St. Irenaeus of Leon (+170) says that the Apostle John lived in Asia Minor and that he wrote his gospel in Ephesus (Contra Haereses 3) and that he lived in the time of Trajan Caesar who died in the year 117.

i. We only find accusations of unbelief against any of the apostles in sources outside the Orthodox Church, such as the Ebionites, who accused Peter of disbelief and considered him a coward.

Tarazi Butchers the Bible

There are doubtless many indicators of how Paul Tarazi deals with the Bible. He treats it as a literary production (p. 15) and not as the living word of God inspired by God but as the word of people about God. Thus he subordinates it to study and research like any other literary production, to the examination of logic and science and arguments, not to the examination of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10), to human considerations and not to the Spirit of God, though “no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (verse 11). Naturally, he speaks about the Spirit of God when he discusses the hidden power behind the Gospel (pp. 44-45), but his field of interest is what is human in matters divine and not what is God’s. For example, Mark’s discussion of Jesus’ authority in 11:27-33 was created by Mark, according to Tarazi, because he wanted to say “that the risen Jesus clearly connects his authority to the authority of Paul” (p. 287) and so the subject is the authority of Paul, not the authority of Jesus. The same idea is repeated in Tarazi’s commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:12. After quoting the verse that says “ he who rejects this, does not reject a man ,but rejects God who also gave us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 4:8) and the verse that says “Our gospel did not come to you with words only, but also with power and the Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 1:5), he observes that Paul’s only aim in emphasizing the Holy Spirit’s role is “so he does not give the Church in Jerusalem a chance to dominate him” (p. 45). The Holy Spirit here is simply an element of support for Paul in his plans, and not in Himself the pole of concern.

This same issue appears in Tarazi’s methodology explicitly and extremely scandalously at times. For example, the way in which he discusses the chosen Apostle’s guidance, which was, in Tarazi’s words “the proof that [Paul] established and which convinced the pillars of the truthfulness of his gospel” (p. 23). In Tarazi’s view, “this is the furthest that can be hoped for in historical research”. Tarazi asks, “What could have caused an event like this guidance?” After reminding us that for Paul, the only legitimate source for the will of God and His purpose is the Scriptures, he says that Paul learned from the Scriptures that the Messiah, the chosen representative of the scriptural God, must be victorious in order to realize God’s victory and salvation. But Jesus was crucified. It seemed impossible to Paul, according to Tarazi, for Jesus to be the Messiah of the scriptural God. So the new movement had to be enterprising. Thus Paul considered the subjugation of the growing group to be a holy message (p. 24). While he was striving to realize his goal in Damascus, the obstinacy of at least some of the Apostles bewildered him. Tarazi deduces, in his own words that “perhaps this led Paul to reread the Book of Isaiah.” Here Tarazi leaps from conjecture to certainty and continues, again in his own words, that “there is no doubt that Paul paused at the description of the servant of Yahweh... it led him to contemplate these passages until he saw clearly that Jesus’ catastrophe... was in reality a part... of the plan of salvation” (p. 24). Tarazi continues his deduction and observes that Paul read “in a true manner that the message of Isaiah is not an internal Jewish concern but is the concern of the God of the world” (p. 25). Pay attention, dear reader, to the expression that Tarazi uses: “in a true manner”! What is the proof for the truth of his reading? “Contemplation” of Isaiah 40-55 is what led him “to see clearly”!!! This is actually what Tarazi says! Suddenly our friend ignores everything that happened to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9). He ignores that Saul was led to Damascus after being surrounded by flashes of light from the sky and being blinded and unable to see anyone. He ignores the words of Ananias to the Apostle, “’the Lord Jesus, the one who appeared to you on the road by which you came, sent me so that you may see and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see and he got up and was baptized.” He ignores that “he immediately started to preach in the synagogues that Christ is the Son of God.” Tarazi not only ignores what happened in Damascus, but also what the chosen Apostle affirms himself in Galatians, when he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that I preached is not from man, because I did not receive it from man and I was not taught it, but rather through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:11-12). So the Apostle Paul did not take the gospel that he preached from his own reckoning, as Tarazi claims, after reading the Holy Scriptures thoroughly and meditating on them. Nor did he receive it from Gamaliel, at whose feet he was taught to fulfill the Law of the fathers (Acts 22:3). Not at all. He learned it through the revelation of Jesus Christ. This is why he was able to read the scriptures in a true manner and see clearly. Because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and only with the Holy Spirit did he become able to judge about divine matters according to what the scriptures say, “the spiritual judges everything and is not judged by everyone” (1 Cor. 2:15). The Holy Scriptures are still from the Spirit of God and natural man still cannot know them because they are only judged spiritually. Natural man, man of reason and senses and imagination and fancies, is the man of study and research, who is unable to know that which is of the Spirit of God. The man of reason and logic remains within the bounds of what is naturally human, even if his words are from God. He holds to what is human to the exclusion of what is of the Spirit of God because “he does not accept what is of the Spirit of God because for him it is ignorance” (1 Cor. 2:14). It is no surprise that Tarazi and those who follow in his footsteps want to submit what is of God to reason, research, study, and argumentation and not to the Spirit of God Who makes what is subject to these things valuable. It is no surprise that they consider themselves unconcerned with the role of the Holy Spirit in reading and interpreting scripture. They set activity of the Holy Spirit aside because they cannot grasp it with their minds and so they are satisfied with talking about it like any other dead letter.

Here we can show with certainty that Tarazi treats the Holy Scriptures not as the living word of God, but as the dead word of men apart from God. I say dead because men are dead and their words, without the Spirit of God, are dead. Tarazi treats the scriptures like a corpse, not like a living body. For this reason he scrutinizes them in detail and submits them to his imaginings and his notions as he pleases. If the scriptures were alive for him, he would treat them with respect to the living element within them, with respect to the Holy Spirit Who speaks through them. He would surrender “every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), not to repudiating the Spirit of Christ! The notion that you can treat what is human in the Holy Scriptures apart from what is of the Spirit of God is the great heresy hiding behind every heresy. Just as you cannot treat the humanity of Jesus apart from His divinity, you cannot treat the human element in the scriptures apart from the Spirit of God. The scriptures are the word of God and God is living and He is present and active in His word and not absent. It is not by chance that the Fathers did not approach the scriptures except in purity and prayer and great reverence, because they hoped to receive from them an acquisition for their life. It is not by chance that our Fathers in the Church of Christ are the ones who interpret the scriptures. The Church has never been a church of scholars, but a church of fathers who lived in piety, purity, and holiness and acquired the Spirit of the Lord and gave us—you and me—the ability to read the scriptures in light of the divinity which they acquired because the Spirit who rose up within them the same Spirit though Whom the scriptures were inspired. Now, dear reader, you are able to understand why Paul Tarazi distances himself from everything to do with the Fathers, accusing them of ignorance in their understanding of the scriptures and basing his sources on what was excreted from the bellies of scholars here and there. The reason is that his interest is not the same as the Fathers’ interest. They are in one valley and he is in another. Their concern in dealing with the scriptures and their interpretation was to become holy and to guide you on the path of holiness. His concern, like all those who follow his methodology in general, is to guide you to opinions and theories and facts and imaginings and thoughts to fill your mind with. This is to make you feel self-satisfied, as though you know a lot, as though you have become holy because you know some things in your mind but you do not know, may God protect you, that knowledge for God is participation with His love, participation with holiness, and not dead intellectual knowledge stored away in your hollows. Today they treat academic, intellectual knowledge as an absolute value, as though it were a goal in itself. Piety and fear of God and keeping the Holy Tradition, fasting, prayer and purity are for them are objects of amusement, to be made light of. They are for the simple and the pietistic, but great understanding is only for those with great minds! May God sweeten the remains of the one who said, “How many teachers, like Origen and thousands of others like him, were at first great stars for the Church with worthy knowledge. But insofar as they gave control over to the sea of knowledge before acquiring, through hesychasm, purity of their senses and the peace and rest of the Holy Spirit, they drowned in the ocean of the Holy Scriptures. They thought that the knowledge of scholars was sufficient. Thousands erred and were anathematized by the Councils after first having been heroes in them” (Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Letter 48).

Because Paul Tarazi treats scripture in the way we described, what is good with him is mixed with what is despicable and what is beautiful acts as a cover for what is wicked. Just as the devil changes himself to look like an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), the poisons of innovation found in Tarazi’s thinking come at you one after another mixed with perfumes, hiding behind them the strange spirit who is behind all human ailments.

Tarazi’s Mockery of the Gospel of Mark

a. The writing of the Gospel of Mark, as Tarazi imagines it, was a human decision. The activity and authority of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Gospel are absent, or as they appear in Tarazi’s reckoning, in the best case are only suppositions. For this reason our friend makes the leaders of the Pauline group, most of whom, in his words, are leaders like Timothy and Mark, those who decided to write the gospel (p. 172). In another place Tarazi claims that Mark intended from the beginning for his effort to be “holy scripture” (p. 176). He says that the author of the second gospel wanted to write “holy scripture” for the gentile churches on the basis of the Gospel of Paul (p. 179). What Paul Tarazi does here is frightful, and is indicative of the lightness with which he regards the subject of holiness. He attributes to saints who have the authority of God, like Mark and Timothy, an opinion, then he makes the opinion he attributed to them into Holy Scripture on the basis of the divine authority he deems them to have. But this is fraud! This idea is yours, not theirs! How do you know that this is what they thought? They thought in the Holy Spirit and you are thinking with your mind! You neither know how the Holy Spirit moved in them nor what He worked through them! For this reason when you attribute holiness to what you imagine them to have done—what they intended and wanted—you attribute holiness to your own idea about them, to the position that you craft for them, not to their actual thoughts or position. Thus you make holiness, in what you know and do not know, an attribute of human discussion of divine things, and not the presence of God in human things!

b. According to Tarazi, Mark is the one who decided to create “a story for Jesus” and he wanted it to be a book (p. 180). The Gospel of Mark then is not something he collected, but something he created.

c. According to Tarazi’s imagination, Mark used for his gospel the general outline of a story known to the gentile churches (p. 180) and he is the one who invented the rest.

d. “Mark’s goal with his gospel”, in Tarazi’s words, “is to call the Church of Jersualem and Peter’s followers, and through them the entirety of the Judaism of that time to leave the Earthly Jerusalem which was destined to be destroyed” (p. 183). This is the basic purpose of the gospel, or the first message which the author wanted to convey (p. 16) through “the gospel story” (p. 181). So the life and teaching of Jesus, in Tarazi’s estimation, is not the basic purpose of the writing of the Gospel of Mark. Rather, they are a cover or a support for another hidden goal of the author!

e. In Tarazi’s opinion, what Mark did was simply to follow the example of the Holy Scriptures themselves. Just as the five mosaic books are considered stories on the basis of the prophetic teachings, woven from the lives and personalities of the prophets, so too is Mark’s constriction of a similar edifice. The life of Jesus reminds “the children of the new covenant” of a prophetic voice which is none other than that of Paul (pp. 181-183). Thus in the Gospel of Mark the life of Jesus is woven together, according to Tarazi, according to the pattern of the life and teaching of Paul. The life of Christ is an icon of Paul!

f. “We should not be surprised by Mark’s depiction of John the Baptist as a historical person,” as Tarazi says, “reflecting his interest in transmitting a message greater than in writing a kind of literal history.” This conforms, in his view, to the way in which Jesus Christ portrayed himself (p. 190). Thus, people, as they are portrayed in the Gospel of Mark, like Jesus and John the Baptist, are only portrayed in such a way as that serves the message that Mark wanted to convey. In other words, the various stories of Jesus serve their purpose because they serve Mark’s purpose, according to Tarazi, not of transmitting the literal history of Jesus and John the Baptist, but to be a means to convey a limited message. The Gospel of Paul, now shaped into stories, calls the Church of Jerusalem to cut her connection with recalcitrant Judaism.

g. The names which are found in the Gospel of Mark are for the most part different as well. In Tarazi’s words, “as I showed earlier, Mark chose names for the most part for the symbolic value that helps him to transmit his message” (p. 312). This is the position that Tarazi in effect takes, about names in the Gospel of Mark.

h. In the Gospel of Mark, as Tarazi imagines it, Jesus is closer to a character in a stage play, an instrument in the hand of the playwright. Tarazi puts, in Mark’s name, words in his mouth and explains his positions regarding the purposes for which he takes those positions. For example, in his commentary on Mark 1:16-3:12 and his words about Jesus’ calling Simon: “Mark strove to complete what Paul had tried to do throughout his life, by making Jesus calling the confused Simon to follow him from Jerusalem to the land of the gentiles” (p. 201). It is not Jesus who chooses to call Simon. Mark is the one who makes him do this for the purpose of the story. Likewise, in his commentary on Mark 14:3-11, Tarazi says that, “in Bethany, ‘the City of the Poor’, where Jesus addresses his listeners for a specific purpose, for them to either stand on the side of the Christ of the Pauline gospel or on the side of ‘the Jewish rebels’” (pp. 297-298).

i. Jesus, “in the Gospel of Mark represents Paul while John the Baptist represents the Jewish side of Paul, as representative of the Old Testament” (note 2, p. 251). The hero of the story in the Gospel of Mark, then, is not Jesus, but Paul who teaches about Jesus. Jesus is Paul’s shadow, an image of Paul, an allusion to him.

j. After all this, what remains of the Gospel of Mark? What Holy Scripture is it? The composition, the scenario, the writing of the stories, the names, and the production are all by Paul Tarazi under Mark’s name and the role of Jesus and the rest of the characters is secondary! Determine for yourself, brother reader! Is this the Gospel, the word of God, that you know?! After today, in the view of Tarazi’s Mark, you cannot say of that anything about Jesus that this is what happened, according to the Gospel of Mark, but that these accounts were composed by Mark to convey to you some of the thoughts of the Gospel of Paul. You cannot say after today that the names that you come across are of real, specific persons, whose stories Mark told and taught us about, according to his sources. Rather, they are names that Mark composed from his imagination to point symbolically to the subject that preoccupies him in “the Gospel of Paul” and the secret message that he wants to send about “the Gospel of Paul”!

From Mockery to Heresy

If Paul Tarazi put forward an opinion, we would be fine with it. If he proposed hypotheses, we would listen to it. We would say all right. Hypotheses are allowable in the sciences if they lead you to significant results. If he spoke from within the roof of the tradition of the Church, then we would learn from him. But for Tarazi’s ideas and speculation to lead you to attack the Church and her symbols with his sick symbolism, what can you say after that? Look, brother reader, at a sample of what I mean:

a. Mary the Mother of God. What does our tradition say about her? That she is a height which human thought cannot attain, a depth the vision of the angels cannot sound, she through whom all creation is renewed, an offering of the miracles of Christ and forgiveness for all the world, fold of the rational sheep, mouth of the apostles who never keeps silent, a sound rule of faith. She is this, and inestimably more because she is the container of the uncontainable God (from the service of the Akathist). This is what the Church says of her and ceaselessly chants. And what does Paul Tarazi say according to the method he invented for reading the Gospel of Mark? Mary is the mother of them all, he means here the brothers of Jesus who represent the Jewish Christians or the erring Jews as a whole. She does not represent all the followers of Christ, but those from among the Jews who believe in Jesus that He is the Messiah. The roots of the choice of Mary rather than her husband Joseph as the symbol of Israel is in the tradition of the Old Testament where it says that Israel, as a group, is like a wife (Hosea 1-3) or a woman (Ezekiel 16 and 23). This applies to a great degree, in Tarazi’s opinion to what we find here in Mark. But what wife did Hosea speak of in chapters 1-3? That she is the adulterous woman because the earth fornicated in turning away from the Lord? And what woman is the woman in Ezekiel? She is she shameless adulteress who represents treacherous Israel. So Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a symbol of Jewish Christianity and treacherous Judaism, a symbol of fornication against God (see pp. 234-235 and note number 2). God forgive us! Mary becomes, in Tarazi’s eye, a symbol of adulterous Israel!!!

b. The Holy Apostle Peter. What does our holy tradition say about him? He is crowned with an undying crown of glory and is the wing of divine knowledge and the tablet of the New Testament written by God, and the special friend of Christ our God (vespers of the feast for July 29). And what does Paul Tarazi say about him? Peter is not faithful to the word of God (p. 177). He betrayed Christ and his message in the end (pp. 214-215) because he rejected the agreement of Jerusalem (p. 68). Tarazi hints that what happened in Antioch, specifically with Peter and Barnabas and the Jews who followed them, was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (p. 266). So Peter is treated as a betrayer and insinuated to be a blasphemer against the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Apostle Peter to whom the Lord said, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church” becomes in Tarazi’s eye the symbol of betrayal and the ally of the devil!!! Who sees him blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?!?

c. The Holy Apostle John, the disciple whom Christ loved. What does the Church say about him? He is the true theologian a depth of knowledge and a great friend to Christ who by resting on his breast acquired the knowledge of wisdom. He is the explainer of the heavenly mysteries of God and the divine harp and he whose mouth welled forth rivers of theology (the vespers of his feast, May 8). Like this and more is said of him in our tradition. But in which column does Paul Tarazi number him? He mentions him in the column of hired hands. He and his brother James, in Mark 1:20, with the hired hands carry, according to Tarazi, a negative meaning, “and he who is the hired hand, to whom the flock does not belong, he will see the wolf approaching and will leave the flock and flee...” (p. 202). He also puts him in the column of mercenaries, because he is the son of Zebedee and Zebedee, according to Tarazi, is a name which according to the Book of Joshua pertains to the people of Judah whose particular profession is to be mercenaries (p. 202). John is also the one who rejects the will of God (p. 303) and who seeks a share in power over the nations (p. 278) and one of those who broke the agreement of Jerusalem (p. 68). In this way, Tarazi makes the beloved John one of those who are rejected, who fight against God.

d. And what does our tradition say about James and Barnabas and the rest of the apostles and Myrrhbearers and Joseph of Aramathea and the other saints whom the Church remembers and honors? I direct you, dear reader, to the Menaion to read what we say about them. And what does Paul Tarazi say? James is the enemy of God who is cut off from the tree of the Fathers (pp. 151-152) and the betrayer of Christ (p. 298). He betrayed Jesus and his message in the end (pp. 214-215). Barnabas is the one who betrayed the Gospel and was not worthy to be called apostle (note 1, p. 324). He is poison, because he betrayed Paul (p. 234) and his group. Joseph of Aramathea, who brought Jesus down from the cross, betrayed the Pauline gospel of the cross (p. 318). His name “Aramathean” can be derived from the Hebrew “Har Rimatayim” which means “the mountain of corruption” (p. 316). The Myrrhbearers, perhaps with the exception of Mary Magdalene (p. 316), represent fallen Judaism (p. 315) and all the Jewish Christian leaders are described as thieves (p. 313).

Mary the Mother of God and all the apostles and saints are transformed, in Tarazi’s book, into symbols of unbelief. No one is left in place except Paul, Mark, Timothy and their group. So how can the Apostle Paul not become, after all this, Paul Tarazi’s sole father in Christ (p. 17)?!

Academic Freedom: A Limit to Stop at!

In the spring of 1990 Theodore Hall wrote in the American magazine “Faith and Reason” an article entitled “Academic Freedom: Is it an Unlimited Freedom?”in which he defined the ceiling for academic freedom. Here is some of what he said:

a. On page three he defined the meaning and substance of academic freedom. He said, “’academic freedom’ is an openness to, but limited by, truth. It is not an absolute freedom or good.”

b. On page four he considers that someone who does not teach what the Church teaches but rather rejects and attacks it is only betraying the trust given to him.

c. Likewise on page four he says that academic freedom stops at the border of scientific truths and this freedom cannot dispute these truths.

d. On page 5 he says, “To express publicly and persistently hypotheses, undeveloped opinions, and much worse error, as truth, is an extremely grave disservice to the community. Against this abusive appeal to academic freedom through the medium of speech, authorities should take steps to protect society. Just options allow the authority to do this by no longer recognizing or supporting the would-be scholar, and/or by denying the offender access to freedom of speech as far as necessary within that community.”

For us, Holy Tradition is the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and so the pillar and rule of truth. Anyone who goes against it and rejects it loses the right to teach in the name of the Church or even is placed himself outside the Church if he persists in his opinion.

From Indifference to Testifying to the Truth

Brother reader, you have now seen, so judge! After Father Paul Tarazi affirms (see his view of himself, above) “This difficult work that is reflected in this section cannot be the result of vanity. It is an expression of God’s love... to which I was commanded through Paul” (p. 17). Is his work an expression of love for God or is it the result of vanity?! The decision is yours and the testimony is yours, so bear witness! Be a witness to the truth of the Gospel!