Robert Eisenman says that Paul of the Bible is the "Spouter of Lies" in the DSS and "Saul who is kinsman of Costobarus" of Josephus. He concludes that the Pauline epistles are a fabrication. How do you respond?
There is a strong scholar with heavy credentials by the name of Robert Eisenman, who uses the Dead Sea Scrolls and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, and makes a convincing sounding connection between the Apostle Paul of Tarsus and a man whom the Dead Sea Scrolls calls ‘Spouter of Lies’ and who the chronicles of Josephus calls ‘Saul whose kinsman is Costobarus’ who disappears being interrogated by Nero in Corinth. The premise being presented to me is that the Pauline canon as we know it today is a 2nd century creation based on the ‘Saul whose kinsman is Costobarus’ archive, as re-worked by Marcion. IOW: The Christian concept of Paul is gravely mistaken. As I began to research this myself I trusted I would quickly find that there was no ‘Saul whose kinsman is Costobarus’. But instead I found enough apparent basis for such a correlation with Paul to be plausible. What is the counter to this argument?
The counter to this argument is that it is simply not plausible!!!! Such arguments sound plausible only in a sort of intellectual vacuum which is devoid of any real evidence, other than that which is artificially presented by the one making the argument. This is a very common trick played by supposed scholars who are trying to make a name for themselves by contriving novel and interesting speculative ideas which advance their career. The cherry-pick certain facts which seem to make their idea plausible to those who are not well acquainted with the facts, and purposefully ignore information which is contrary to their scenario. If we actually look at the evidence, then the whole theory collapses of its own weight and cannot be supported for a nanosecond in the real world of evidence.
Now, those are rather strong words, but let me explain why I say this. In order to reach the rather preposterous conclusion that the Paul of the New Testament is the "Spouter of Lies" in the Dead Sea Scrolls and at the same time the "Saul who is kinsman of Costobarus" of Josephus requires us to ignore some very important facts. First of these is that we know a lot about the Saul in the Bible. This theory assumes that Peter, who wrote 2 Peter 3:15-16, is very confused. He tells us about his friend Paul who wrote some letters to the churches in the first century which were "scripture." This theory also assumes that Luke is a conniving, manipulative liar when he discusses the life of Paul. This theory requires that Luke is making up the entire story of Paul, which is a rather ludicrous proposal to make, given that we have quotes from Luke and Acts in the late first century. There are literally dozens of eye witnesses from the late first and early second century who testify that Saul (Paul) of Tarsus was a real person who traveled around the Mediterranean Sea, planting churches. The theory of this person requires us to assume that all of these people are either liars or deluded. It is an indisputable fact that the churches everywhere in the late first century and early second century were convinced that this guy Paul really started churches and really wrote these letters. The extremely speculative theories of Robert Eisenman does absolutely nothing to erode this evidence.
Now, let us look at this fellow Saul who is kinsman of Costobarus. Here is an excerpt from Josephus:
The Wars Of The Jews Or The History Of The Destruction Of Jerusalem Book II Chapter 20. 1. AFTER this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink; Costobarus, therefore, and Saul, who were brethren, together with Philip, the son of Jacimus, who was the commander of king Agrippa’s forces, ran away from the city, and went to Cestius. But then how Antipas, who had been besieged with them in the king’s palace, but would not fly away with them, was afterward slain by the seditious, we shall relate hereafter. However, Cestius sent Saul and his friends, at their own desire, to Achaia, to Nero, to inform him of the great distress they were in, and to lay the blame of their kindling the war upon Florus, as hoping to alleviate his own danger, by provoking his indignation against Florus.
This event occurs in AD 66, almost certainly after Paul was killed by Nero. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to connect this Saul with the Saul/Paul of the New Testament. The only thing they have in common is the rather common Jewish name Saul. Robert Eisenman can try to imply that these two are one and the same, but he is only howling at the moon to those who look at the evidence.
What about the "Spouter of Lies?" The Dead Sea Scrolls include a section about;
The ‘Teacher of Righteousness,’ or ‘Righteous Teacher,’ leads a Messianic Movement befuddled by "the Spouter of Lies, who leads many astray in order to build his city of vanity on blood and erect an Assembly upon Lying, for the sake of his glory, tiring out many with a worthless service and instructing them in works of Lying, so that their works will be of Emptiness.
On what evidence is this a reference to Paul? To be honest, this is one of the thinnest theories I have heard. In any case, the connection between Saul, brother of Costobarus and this Spouter of lies is an absolutely complete fabrication. This theory does not even deserve our attention at all. What we do know is that the early church fathers were unanimous that there was an evangelist/apostle named Paul who wrote letters, including Galatians, Philippians, Romans, etc., who died in a persecution by Nero in about AD 63. Paul is quoted extensively by Clement of Rome (AD 95) Ignatius (AD 115) and others at the turn of the first century. You can ignore the theories and the conclusions of Robert Eisenman as being of no validity at all.