February 19, 2012 Q & A

Was the apostle Paul a Pharisee?


Is there any proof that Paul was actually a Pharisee? I ask this because of a recent clash I had with someone claiming that Paul was a Hellenistic Jew influenced by the culture of mystery schools in Tarsus. He claimed that early Christianity has it's roots in these Gnostic mystery schools, and that Paul implemented certain aspects such as rebirth, the Eucharist, baptism, etc. He also said that Hellenistic Judaism already had many aspects of those mystery schools interwoven in it's faith and that therefore Paul chose to minister to the Gentiles because they would be more easily convinced.

I can't find a lot about it, apart from in the Bible. This has me pretty worried since when I search for this on the internet, a lot of "new-age" Gnostic explanations actually affirm it. I hope you can help me out.


You ask for proof that Paul was a Pharisee. The answer will depend upon what your final authority is. Your "debating partner" clearly accepts the idea that human thought is autonomous, i.e., each man must decide for himself what is or is not true. This makes man and his thinking the ultimate authority. But as a Christian you accept the Scripture as your final authority because God, the ultimate arbiter of truth and the final authority in all things, has written the Scriptures.

What this means for your question is simply, "What does the Bible say about Paul?" And Paul himself says that he was a Pharisee in Acts 23:6; 26:5 and Philippians 3:5. The Bible, as God's Word, trumps the internet and any scholar who relies upon human authority that does not submit itself to the Word of God. Thus, you have the proof: Paul was a Pharisee.



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