Is Acts letting us know what motivated Paul of Tarsus? Revenge? Survival?
I don’t know. I think maybe I see the outline of a puzzle. Maybe piece together some bits of information to get a larger picture?
Acts implies that disciple Paul disobeyed his master (teacher, mentor) named Gamaliel. Disobedience, especially in a serious matter, would likely not be tolerated.
Was Paul an outcast??
Did Paul manufacture a new religion in order to retaliate and to bring down the Jerusalem Temple establishment?
First, Gamaliel, a Pharisee and teacher of the law, persuades the ruling Sanhedrin to suspend persecution of Jesus-followers (Acts 5:34-40).
Later, Paul (then known as Saul) participates in the destruction of Jesus-followers. He guards the cloaks of those killing Stephen and approves of this killing (Acts 7:57-60, Acts 22:20).
That is the order of events shown in Acts, but we should not necessarily assume that its author “Luke” wants to be fair to Paul. (The original Luke had been a follower of Paul.)
In Acts 22:3-5, we find out that Paul studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law, and Paul admits that he persecuted the followers of the Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison.
Did Paul’s apparent disobedience to his master Gamaliel end Paul’s chances for a career? He had disobeyed on a matter of serious moral importance (killing). Maybe with no mentor, he lost his chance to be part of the Jerusalem ruling elite – permanently.
Of course, we can’t know for sure if Paul was disobedient; and if he was, how Gamaliel reacted.
Arising out of mind and circumstance
As an outcast, Paul retaliates in anger? In his fury at being ostracized, and in his need to survive, he promotes his own particular brand of Christianity, without regard to its authenticity (Galatians 1:11 through 2:6); deliberately creates a schism in the Jesus-community (split occurs over circumcision and inclusion of “unclean” Pagans); large portions of the Jesus-community, particularly those far from Jerusalem are lost to the Sanhedrin control or influence.
Well, it’s just a theory.
I am rather disinclined to put too much emphasis on negative insinuations about Paul by “Luke.” After all, this is the only writer who makes the Virgin Mary into an unwed mother (Luke 2:5-7), who makes the Magdalene demon-possessed (Luke 8:1-3), and who has people mysteriously dying around Peter (Acts 5:1-11).
Maybe Paul never had a chance to be part of the Jewish elite. He was a Jew (Acts 22:3), a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), but also “born a Roman” (Acts 22:28). If he had a Roman mother?? maybe that worked against him in Jewish circles.
But maybe his Roman connections were significant. How else would the humble tentmaker Paul merit a resource-intensive escort of 470 Roman men of war? (Acts 23:23)
Maybe he didn’t ever really need Gamaliel.
Update March 4, 2012:
There are also demons in Mary Magdalene’s past in the ending to Mark (Mk 16:9-20) which is not in the earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses.