Over the next three entries we'll be having an E-Block series that started in April 2009 on Douglas del Tondo's Jesus' Words Only. The "anti-Paul" movement -- of which del Tondo is a spearhead -- is distinguished chiefly by its poor scholarship, it's paranoia towards Paul, and quite frankly, outright dishonesty. This will become clear as this series is posted.
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. -- 2 Peter 3:16For many readers of the Bible, even Christians, Paul remains an enigmatic figure who seems to be speaking on a different plane. This is understandable. Paul was certainly among the three most educated and intelligent of the NT authors (Matthew and Luke come close, or perhaps even match), and it takes a great deal of careful study to avoid misreading him.
Regrettably, Douglas Del Tondo -- hereafter, appropriately, designated as "DDT" -- didn't do that study.
His book Jesus' Words Only (JWO) is a ponderous volume that is overlong by two times, and undersupported in its premises by three times. The most clear and immediate warning sign is Del Tondo's bibliography. For a book that purports to give the skinny on Paul, serious Pauline scholarship is badly underrepresented -- to the tune of "none." No Ben Witherington. No N. T. Wright. Not even a David Wenham. Instead, Del Tondo seems to think that the best defense and interpretation of Paul comes from the likes of popular preachers Charles Stanley and John MacArthur, radio talk show host Bob George, and, errr... "dead white men" like Martin Luther and John Calvin.
Worse, Del Tondo uses several commentaries published in the Bronze Age (like Adam Clarke's) and dips into the well of fringe scholarship, making trustful use of Robert Eisenman, he who believes that the Dead Sea Scrolls have been subjected to a conspiracy.
Needless to say, do not expect a command exegetical performance!
At over 500 pages, and with Del Tondo's rather anemic writing style, it will take us at least two installments to deal with his main arguments (we'll exclude some secondary ones, like his answers to arguments that God would not allow a fraud into the canon), so let us proceed to those now.
#1: Did Jesus Warn Us That Paul Was Coming?
Though DDT denies that God ought to have made sure a faker like Paul did not get into the canon, he does have it so that God cleverly and playfully inserted little warnings in the NT so that we'd be able to spot that faker once he made it in -- at least, we would be able to once DDT cleared up the matter for us. Del Tondo finds a warning in Matthew 7:23:
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.You perhaps missed the reference to Paul, so allow me to explain it as DDT does. The last word "iniquity" is the Greek word anomia. Literally, "no law" or "lawlessness." According to DDT, this doesn't mean general immorality or lawbreaking, but specifically, breaking of the Jewish law. Paul taught the abrogation of the law. Therefore, this is a warning against Paul. See what he means?
And of course, this gets to the heart of what many in the Paul Fan Club are all about. Somehow, they say, the covenant of law is still valid, and Paul denied this; thus -- Black Hat. We'll need now to take a diversion to explain the fatal premise in contextual interpretation this requires.
As I show here, the OT law is part of a covenant or contract agreement. Jesus gave us a new covenant. Yet we may still learn from the old one what God views as right behavior. This of course requires contextualization of the commands. And when the NT writers, including Paul, exhort morals on their hearers, they show that the new covenant isn't a free for all with behavior (though we'll see later how DDT tries to read that out of Paul).
The corner into which DDT paints himself -- and never really figures a way out -- is this: If the law is still valid as is, you have to follow all of it as it is. No excuses. You have to do Temple sacrifices. You have to put a rail around your roof. No contextualizing is allowed. But even DDT does not do this, and even he must admit to contextualizing to get rid of the sacrifice commands: These are moot, he says, because of what Jesus did on the cross. Really? Who said that? What? Hebrews says it?  Well, the author of Hebrews was a heretic then. This is how easy it is to use Del Tondo's Biblical Buffet. DDT himself practices "lawlessness" as long as he doesn't do Temple sacrifices, and there's no way around it that also doesn't release Paul from DDT's accusations.
Yet indeed, DDT does "contextualize" the law in his own way. He tries to get out of having to be circumcised, for example, by using the excuse that it was a command solely to Jews.  Oh? Yes, this is true. But the entirety of the Deuteronomic law was also given to Jews, and Jesus in his ministry was also speaking only to Jews when he said the law would not pass away. Yet Paul's audience was overwhelmingly Gentile. And DDT admits that the only burden placed in Gentiles was the strictures of the Jerusalem council (though he also adds the Ten Commandments [103-4], on the basis that some of the same commands were applied to sojourners in other places -- though not the Sabbath one, which is the only one anyone would ever say is not representative of a universal moral law). So in essence, DDT condemns Paul for saying the law is no longer applicable, to people who were never under its strictures in the first place! (We'll discuss two major exceptions he claims, related to that council, below.)
In the end, once all the contextualization is done, we DO have exhortations to "follow the law" -- and DDT is right to say (though not on the basis of his own views) that the sacrifices were mooted. So, likewise, were laws associated with eg, keeping kosher or making the followers of YHWH "stand out" from other people. Many moral laws (like the "roof railing" one) have become moot by practice (we don't live and work on a roof; but we do observe the principle behind this of safety standards). And that leaves us with what? Some general moral laws -- which Paul himself either affirms or never denies.
Of course, the question arises: Can DDT actually show that Paul was "lawless" in any sense? DDT claims that Paul "shamelessly put [his sins] on public display" but when we get to the list, we find a series of misapprehensions, misreadings, and misinterpretations of the sort we might expect from the Skeptics' Annotated Bible:
- James (3:10) and Proverbs (10:7) speak against cursing, but Paul curses people (Gal. 1:8, 9, 1 Cor. 16:22).  DDT needs to look past the KJV, and for someone who makes much of Greek, he ignores it here. Paul uses the word anathema, which means something set away from God. James uses katara, which refers to an imprecation, not to someone's status with relation to God. Pslam 10:7 (DDT misattributes it to Proverbs) is equally strong, and is often used to refer to oaths. DDT is illicitly drawing parallels using the English words -- which is quite a feat for someone who says that he has been designated a "Classical Language Scholar" (per the back of his book). I should note that DDT may argue that Paul's "anathema" was a type of "imprecation" and therefore a violation. If he takes that route, then he is in deeper trouble, as by the same token, Jesus himself issued imprecations against a number of persons and cities, and Elisha called down a curse on the youths who were attacked by bears, and Deuteronomy is full of "curses" on those who disobey the law. Obviously, James cannot have such things in mind; he refers rather to "bitter envying and strife" (3:14) in the same context -- which suggests that he does not have pronouncements of judgment in mind, but rather expressions of personal animosity.
- Jesus said not to call people fools (Matthew 5:22) but Paul calls the Galatians foolish (3:1).  Another bit of unHellenistic folly; the word used by Paul is anoetos, and er....it happens to be the word used by Jesus to address Cleopas and his friend when they don't get the point (Luke 24:45). In contrast, the word in Matthew 5:22 is moros, from which we get moron. Perhaps Jesus himself needs DDT's help to get out of that sin.
- James (4:16, 2:16) and Proverbs (29:23, 27:2) say not to boast, but Paul openly boasts (2 Cor. 11).  Here is an example of how DDT's lack of familiarity with NT scholarship hurts him. He fails to understand Paul's "boasting" in 2 Cor. as a rhetorical ploy, an example of irony -- not actual boasting.
- Jesus saus not to judge people (Matthew 7:1) but Paul does judge Peter in Galatians. DDT has fallen here for the standard misinterpretation of Matthew 7:1. He also illicitly brings in Matthew 18:15, which has to do with sins of one person against another; Peter did not sin against Paul, and so Matthew 18:15 is irrelevant.
Further on, it becomes clear what the problem is: DDT repeatedly confuses Paul's indications of abrogation of the law as covenant with abrogations of the law as a moral guide. DDT claims that Paul "even abolished the moral components of the law"  but makes little serious effort to show this.
The first specific issue raised is that of the Sabbath. A case can be made, yes, that Paul denied the need to observe the Sabbath (eg, Col. 2:14), but this is far from a moral issue. DDT tells us that the Sabbath command "is clearly not a ceremonial law about sacrifice. It is one of the Ten Commandments."  What of this? DDT has proposed a fallacious logical progression much like that of the critic in our last issue (see article "Stone Sabbath"). That the Sabbath command is one of the "Big Ten" does not make it a moral imperative for all times, any more than listing women along with oxen in the tenth commandment makes them both "property." Like many misinterpreters, DDT has arbitrarily assigned to the Ten Commandments the category distinction, "things to be observed by everyone loyal to YHWH at all times." But he has failed to show why this category ought to be recognized.
After this, DDT turns from specific moral charges to a claim that Paul teaches a "new morality" based on expediency. But here he commits one of his most significant blunders of the sort one commits without recourse to serious scholarship. He cites 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23, which both say:
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient...Unfortunately, rather than consult reputable scholars for an understanding of these passages, DDT cites for interpretative authority a Geocities website by authors who say of themselves:
As the authors of this site and the articles posted here, we would like to be up-front about the fact that we have never been to Bible College or Seminary. We are simply two Christians who are committed to God's Word....and radio host Bob George! Sadly, neither of these sources is correct in assuming that these words represent Paul's own views. Rather, as is recognized by serious scholars like Witherington (commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 167), when Paul says the words in bold above, he is quoting back to the Corinthians some of their own "slogans" to which he then replies! The Corinthians had fallen sway to a sort of proto-Gnostic heresy which encouraged libertine behavior because of its indifference to the physical body. These and many other verses (7:1, 8:1, 8:4, 8:8, 15:12) reflect the positions of Paul's opponents, not Paul himself.
That said, what of the specific slogan, "all things are lawful unto me" and Paul's response? Witherington judges that perhaps Paul did say something like this, but that if he did, the Corinthians "misunderstood the implications" of what he said, and the portions following represent a corrective. What of those correctives? DDT reduces these to Paul having a morality of expediency, or morality based on how you feel. DDT specifically criticizes Paul for "expediency" based on the Sabbath issue (on which, see above) and that of eating idol meat (an issue he fully misapprehends; see below). But it must be kept in mind, again, that Paul is replying to a libertine, proto-Gnostic slogan with the main principle of denying the usefulness of the body. Therefore, Paul's reply about what is "expedient" is not about moral expediency, but expediency in terms of what affects the body.
In this as well, it ought to be noted that DDT is working with a definition of "expedient" that equals, "what is advantageous without respect for ethical principles." Once again this is a case of DDT abusing the English connotations while ignoring Greek -- as well as alternate English meanings. "Expedient" has a meaning (as it did in King James' time, and still does today to an extent) of being useful, or better than some alternative. The Greek word used, symphero, has this meaning in other places as well:
Matthew 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.Would DDT like to correct Jesus for his "morality of expedience" here? I'd think not. But note that further on, Paul's response fits a context in which it is "more profitable" -- in the same way Jesus says! -- to not sin:
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make [them] the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.In light of this -- which DDT does not quote when he treats the "all things are lawful" portion -- it is absurd for DDT to say that Paul has a system where there are "no strict moral rules to follow."  If DDT can't get a rule against eg, fornication out of the above, then the problem may be his own clouded moral vision -- not Paul's!
In a section further on, DDT accuses Paul of denigrating the Law because he says it was "given by angels" (Gal. 3:19) -- which he regards as the "most troubling aspect" of Paul's view of the Law . According to DDT, this is to be paired with Gal. 4:18-19:
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?How's this work? DDT believes that the "elements" are to be read as "angels" and thus "Paul clearly says the Law was not given by God." 
Sadly, once again, the serious scholarship confounds DDT's views. As far as the angels bit, I once noted responding to a Jewish anti-missionary site:
The word for "angels" means messengers and this is in line with the NT-era Jewish understanding of Wisdom as a messenger through whom the transcendent God's commands were delivered. Moreover, contemporary Jewish tradition regarded angels as having a "positive role in the giving of the Law (cf. Deut. 32:2 LXX; Ps. 67:18 LXX; Jub. 1:27-29...)" [Witherington, Galatians commentary, 257] and the rabbis also spoke of angels descending at the time the law was given (Pesiq R 21).So far from being a negative reference, Paul's comments in 3:19 reflect a positive view of Jews of his day. What DDT calls "obvious heresy" was actually an affirmation that God handed down the Law via His own divine hypostasis and/or servants. (It is interesting that he is thereafter also forced to say that Stephen [Acts 7:53] and Hebrews [2:2] are "making a misapplication of Scripture"  when they say the same thing. It will not be long before DDT has his own "Jefferson Bible" at this rate!)
But what then of the alleged equation of the "elements" with angels in 4:8-9? DDT claims that "in Jewish thought, elements of the world means angels" but in seeking out his support for this, we find what can only be charitably called an outright misrepresentation of his source. DDT footnotes to a page here which he represents thusly:
One commentator points out that in Greek thought, the reference to "elements of the world....likely [means] celestial beings...But a check of that page shows that DDT is engaging in selective quoting, for what it says is:
The elemental powers of the world: while the term can refer to the "elements" like earth, air, fire, and water or to elementary forms of religion, the sense here is more likely that of celestial beings that were thought in pagan circles to control the world; cf Gal 4:8; Col 2:8, 20.It should be noted that not even the "celestial beings" view may be correct; Witherington for example (Galatians commentary, p. 298) ties the word to observances related to the Emperor cult, such that it is the Emperors themselves who are "no gods" and the "principles" refers not to celestial beings, but simply and generally to religious rules such as observing times and seasons (as was done in Judaism as well as paganism). But regardless, DDT has plainly misrepresented -- indeed, lied about -- his source, which does NOT identify the "celestial beings" with the angels of Jewish thought.
DDT cites one other source that allegedly makes this connection, Vincent's Word Studies -- which was first published in the 19th century! But apart from the appalling appeal to such ancient source without looking at anything newer, an online copy shows that DDT can't get that fully reported either. He is all he quotes:
The elements of the world are the personal, elemental spirits. This seems to be the preferable explanation, both here and in Colossians ii. 8. According to Jewish ideas, all things had their special angels. In the Book of Jubilees, chapter 2, appear, the angel of the presence (comp. Isa. lxiii. 9); the angel of adoration; the spirits of the wind, the clouds, darkness, hail, frost, thunder and lightning, winter and spring, cold and heat.Problem? Vincent goes on to say a heck of a lot more than that! Look:
In the Book of Enoch, lxxxii. 10-14, appear the angels of the stars, who keep watch that the stars may appear at the appointed time, and who are punished if the stars do not appear (xviii. 15). In the Revelation of John we find four angels of the winds (xiv. 18); the angel of the waters (xvi. 5); the age in the sun (xix. 17). In Hebrew i. 7 we read, "who maketh his angels winds." Paul also recognizes elemental forces of the spiritual world. The thorn is "a messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians xii. 7); Satan prevents his journey to Thessalonica (1 Thess. ii. 18); the Corinthian offender is to be "delivered to Satan" (1 Cor. v. 5); the Kingdom of God is opposed by "principalities and powers" (1 Corinthians xv. 24); Christians wrestle against "the rulers of the darkness of this world; against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the upper regions" (Eph. vi. 12). In this passage the elements of the world are compared with overseers and stewards. This would seem to require a personal interpretation. In verse 8, "did service to them which by nature are no gods," appears to be = "in bondage under the elements," suggesting a personal interpretation of the latter. The Galatians had turned again to the observance of times and seasons (verse 10), which were controlled by the heavenly bodies and their spirits.So it is that DDT turns what was in fact a broad survey of views of "celestial beings" in various contexts into a specific reading of the Gal. 4:8-9 "elements" as Jewish angels present at the handing down of the law. Vincent does not make that identification; rather, he is broadly explaining why "elements" refers to something personal, and if anything, connects the beings in Gal. 4:8-9 to "the spirits" associated with "heavenly bodies" -- meaning pagan elements. The dishonesty, honestly....is a wonder to behold.
One last point against DDT's identification of these "elements" with Jewish angels. It should be noticed that Paul asks the Galatians if they plan to turn again to those "elements." The Galatians were pagans before they were Christians, not Jews. Therefore, the "elements" could NOT refer to anything of a Jewish nature, because they could not turn again to anything to which they had no adherence before.
In a short section, DDT makes much of the accusation against Paul in Acts that he brought a Gentile (Trophimus) into the Temple -- essentially arguing that because Paul did not ever deny the charge, he must have actually done it! [112-3] DDT parses words rather painfully to arrive at this: "Neither Luke nor Paul ever deny Trophimus profaned the Temple. Instead, both Luke and Paul merely try to deny that there was proof that Paul had brought Trophimus into the prohibited area." It is tempting to say that this is a parsing worthy of an attorney like DDT -- and indeed it is. At the same time, the verses cited (Acts 24:13, 25:8) have Paul or Luke saying that his accusers cannot prove their accusations -- not a specific act.
But now to one of DDT's most enormous beefs....and I do mean BEEF! The accusation: Paul violated the command in Acts telling Gentiles not to eat idol meat by telling them that they could. As DDT puts it: "Paul taught idol meat was perfectly acceptable unless someone else thought it was wrong."  Let's look at how he addresses each alleged teaching.
1 Cor. 8.
DDT has misread this passage from the start. As Witherington explains (commentary on Corinthians, 186f), this is again a case where Paul is addressing a specific problem in Corinth, and it again has to do with proto-Gnostic (or perhaps Cynic or Stoic) libertines. It is they-- not Paul, as DDT says -- who were arguing that it was all right to eat sacrificed meat, using the rationale that idols were "nothing." Now note that this forces Paul to walk a tightrope: On the one hand, he can hardly be put into the position of saying that the pagan's gods were legitimate entities, such that the sacrifices had real meaning. He can't deny the force of the libertine's arguments in this regard. On the other hand, he must stand behind a prohibition to eat idol meat. To answer the libertines, Paul presents two arguments. The first is that the sacrifices are unwittingly offered to demons (10:20), so that the libertines are in a sense still wrong: The pagan gods may be frauds, but there are still potentially live beings behind them. Second, he offers the argument that DDT wrongly understands to be an allowance to eat idol meat: You may offend a brother who is weaker. Perversely, DDT turns Paul's admonition around -- from a moral appeal for consideration for one's brothers, into a libertine permission to eat idol food as long as your brothers don't see you do it!
As DDT continues, he yet again attributes to Paul that which was far more likely a quoted slogan of the libertines (eg, 8:8: "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.") which he in turn answers (8:9: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.") It should be noted that the word for "stumblingblock" is a strong one -- implying that your action may lead your Christian brother into apostasy. Far from being a permission as DDT spins it, 1 Cor. 8 is a very strong warning.
This is the next passage dealt with:
1 Cor. 10:25-28 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof...From this, it becomes clear that the issue is again somewhat different than DDT makes it out to be. In Acts, the ruling against eating idol meat is made with the presumption that the eater knows that the meat has been offered to an idol. But for food sold in the market, or served at the house of a host -- there is no way to tell what was previously offered to idols and what was not. One hunk of meat looks the same as another! And while some or even most meat came from a temple sacrifice (Witherington, 189) there were all kinds of other foods in the market as well. Indeed, the word used for "meat" does not simply mean beef, but all types of food that might be offered to an idol. There was no telling what was what for sure.
Paul's directive therefore is to eat, until someone tells you the meat was sacrificed to an idol. And of course, that is only sensible, for the food itself has no idolatrous properties; it is the knowledge of the sacrifice that instills those properties.
DDT, however, again presents the matter as though Paul were telling people it was all right to eat meat that they knew was sacrificed to idols, as long as no one was offended. To do so he is compelled to again engage is some rather "lawyerly" exegesis. Paul warns that one cannot eat idol meat and also take communion at the Lord's table. DDT tries to evade the blunt force of this warning by saying that it is "not a flat prohibition on eating idol meat."  It isn't? A warning that these two practices are mutually exclusive doesn't equate with prohibiting the one versus the other? I do not believe DDT is speaking the same English language we are.
DDT then misreads (again) a Corinthian libertine slogan as Paul's own words (10:23) before selectively quoting from 10:25-27, as in bold:
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake:DDT does also allude to the purchase of meat in the market and eating at someone's home. But he fails to quote the rest of the passage, and interprets it for the reader as Paul saying, "it is best you not know what you are eating. Don't let your conscience dictate questions about what you are eating. In a sense, Paul believes it is better you not know the meat's origin rather than try to scrupulously avoid eating such meat."  This is again a twisting of the lesson: As DDT fails to note, once one knows the food is from idols, Paul issues a flat prohibition.
It is also telling that DDT fails to quote Paul's supporting citation of Ps. 24:1. It is also less than honest to describe Paul's point so as to imply that we are to go about consciously trying to avoid finding out if food has been sacrificed to idols. In the market, there simply was almost no way to do this. Food items were hardly put into bins marked SACRIFICED TO ZEUS TODAY, because the average Roman had no objection to eating such food and required no differentiation.
In the case of eating at someone else's home, there was only one way to know if food was sacrificed to idols -- and that was when your neighbor put it down at the table and made the announcement. In that case, you were hardly in danger of eating idol food in the first place; you'd know before it made it to your mouth. But there is more that DDT misses: To make such announcement means that the host was trying to be sensitive to their guests, in case they did indeed wish to NOT eat idol food (Witherington, 227). It would not then be a case of not knowing you were eating idol food once the meal started; you were being "warned" beforehand. Silence on this point indicated that it was not idol food. Therefore DDT's exegesis is wrong yet again.
In the end, DDT forces himself into an awkward position with 1 Cor. 10. If, as his analysis implies, Paul ought to have told people to find out where the food came from before they ate it, then DDT needs to place himself under similar restrictions. He is obliged to not purchase any product until he is sure that every aspect of the chain of production of that product is pure. He is obliged to ensure that every little old lady he helps across the street has not just come from a shoplifting spree. He is obliged to refrain from giving a vagrant a hot meal until he is sure that they are not wanted by the police. Somehow, though -- I doubt that he does all of this!
In close for this section, it is again most telling that DDT ignores credentialed scholars for his source material, and instead digs deep into the texts of obscure, unknown pastors of local churches who have posted their readings on the Internet. But then again, it should be no surprise that even then, he fails to adequately represent their views. The sermon of a Dr. Peter Barnes that DDT cites, is quoted to the extent of a single paragraph -- while ignoring a few contextualizing points similar to those we note above.
If I may insert an observation based solely on a personal experience....when I was called for jury duty, the pool was told that they only had to consider evidence presented by the attorneys. They could not check the facts our further for themselves. I immediately disliked this -- for it implied that an attorney could willfully refuse to report evidence that convicted their client (or conversely, for prosecutors, exonerated the innocent defendant).
It seems that DDT is much too used to his privilege as an attorney to withhold damning evidence.
DDT is, though, very attentive to passages in Revelation 2 which condemn those who teach Christians the way of Balaam and to "eat things sacrificed to idols." As we have seen, this isn't what Paul taught at all. But there is an oddity in the use of Rev. 2. The churches condemned for allowing such teaching -- Thyatira and Pergamum -- are, as far as we know, without any association with Paul or his teachings. In contrast, the church praised for rejecting this teaching, Ephesus, is one Paul clearly had positive associations with. In addition, it seems strange that Jesus so clearly identifies one responsible group -- the Nicolaitans -- quite clearly, but not Paul. To be sure, DDT does think that Paul is mentioned -- in a very backhanded way.
Nevertheless, DDT force-fits Paul into the Balaam mold, using a method we find familiar from works like Helms' Gospel Fictions and MacDonald's Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark: Essentially, he collapses down descriptions of Paul and Balaam into least common denominators, ignoring differences in their stories. For example, both are a "prophet of God who was changed from an enemy into a friend by an angelic-type vision" while on a road.  (And oddly this is once again secretively and slyly placed in the NT by a God who DDT supposes would not rather just make sure Paul was left out of the NT entirely). Let's analyze each of those.
- "Prophet of God" -- not quite. Paul is never described as a prophet but as an apostle.
- "Changed from an enemy to a friend" -- not in Balaam's case, no. Balaam was a prophet for hire; his "friend" was whoever had the most cash. He was never changed to a "friend" (he could only prophesy for favor for Israel because he couldn't say anything else) and was paid to be an "enemy".
- "Angelic-type vision" -- um, not quite. Paul saw Jesus, not an angel; it's clear DDT sees a problem with his match here, as he calls upon a rather obscure idea from one of the (much older) commentaries that the angel seen by Balaam was Jesus. The commentator, John Gill (1697-1771), uses this rather odd reasoning: "...the angel speaking in the same language as God did before to Balaam, Nu 22:20 shows that not a created angel, but a divine Person, is here meant..." Really? So the fact that the angel says the same thing God does ("but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shall thou do") proves the angel is God? There are good reasons why educated people no longer use these commentaries for anything but historical curiosity!
- "While on a road" -- well, why not also point to differences? Paul was walking; Balaam was on a donkey. Paul was on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians; Balaam was on his way to curse Israel in the wilderness. And so on. But DDT's "parallelomania" is so great that he tries to find a parallel in Balaam's donkey asking why he is being beaten ("Why have you hit me three times?") and Jesus asking Paul why he is persecuting him.  Did DTT intend to imply that Jesus is equal to a donkey and that Paul was riding Jesus into Damascus?
The pedantic legalism here speaks for itself, but we can say more. DDT's condemnation fails inasmuch as the certificate of divorce was a specifically Jewish practice. In Corinth, in the Greco-Roman world, a person could enact a divorce simply by leaving (or telling the other person to leave). "Walking out" was the functional equivalent of the Jewish divorce certificate. (See Instone-Brewer's Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, 190.)
Thus it is that DDT's attempts to saddle Paul with the "Balaam" label are proven ineffective. His most important argument for leaving Paul to the history of heresy is defused.
A curious sidelight on page 148 is one in which DDT criticizes Paul's doctrine of grace as one which permits unrestrained sin without penalty. But wait -- what about rewards in heaven, then? DDT acknowledges this point, but dismisses it as being "no loss of something you cannot afford to lose" and "no penalty" because you don't lose salvation. "It is not even a set back. You simply do not move ahead," DDT says.  His downplaying of the matter notwithstanding, DDT is here talking about one's eternal rewards, and what one will live with forever. Is it "no penalty" to be told that because of your sin, you will spend eternity scrubbing New Jerusalem's toilets, as opposed to doing something far more important?
Briefly, we may note DDT's chapter on salvation in Paul versus salvation as offered by Jesus. Not much needs to be said here, as DDT's lack of understanding is fundamental: He makes much of how "faith" is seldom mentioned in the Gospels , but fails to define faith properly as loyalty -- and surely cannot deny that Jesus demanded loyalty from his followers in practice. By the same token DDT thereby fails to understand works as an essential outworking of true faith, and so wrongly accuses Paul of offering a cheap grace, and of reading into Paul the idea that a "one-time belief in certain facts saves you."  Paul and his contemporaries would say: "No, that belief of yours would result in you acting a certain way, if you truly believed it."