I didn’t want to wade into this whole thing (I’ve written enough about religion for a good while now), but after the insipid comments by a certain press secretary, I had to comment.
The apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, was an absolute bloke.
He never met Jesus of Nazareth; when the disciples began their mission post-crucifixion, Saul was one of the Pharisees that persecuted the early followers of Jesus. His conversion story — the blinding on the road to Damascus, seeing Jesus in the sun, the miraculous recovery of his sight — reads as an extended justification for his 180 after discovering, hey, this Jesus stuff would go over well with the Gentiles!
Regardless of how or why, Paul converted, then turned what was a revolutionary movement into a Hellenized, Stoic-lite flavor of itself, made palatable for citizen of the Roman Empire. Jesus said “render under Caesar what is Caesar’s,” (Matthew 22:21) with the implication that in fact, nothing belonged to Caesar. Paul said to obey local authorities. (Romans 13, aka what Sanders was referring to.)
Paul turned a religious movement that challenged authority into one that could be co-opted as the state religion some 300 years later during the reign of Constantine. He wasn’t solely responsible, but he started it.
Whenever someone justifies something awful with a Bible verse, it’s from 1) Leviticus, 2) some other out-of-context Old Testament book, or 3) Paul’s epistles. “Slaves, obey your masters?” That was Paul (Colossians 3:22, Ephesians 6:5) White southern churches used that line up through the Civil War to justify the continued enslavement of black people. (Never mind that the first chunk of Exodus was about liberating the enslaved.)
And if you use Paul to circumvent what Jesus taught, you’re the worst, too.