I think it is a good topic to discuss Paul since you think he epitomized gnostic principles in his writing and I think his writing reveals a true christian world-view with a very heavy background in Levitical Law (though he realized the Law had a purpose apart from dictating rules of conduct).
The letter confirms the Gnosticism of Paul in that he refers to Christ in the present tense... even though Paul is supposed to have lived after Jesus’s lifetime. In other words, his Christ is not linked to a historical person now dead, but to the Gnostic concept of Christ, which is the Christ within, or Christ consciousness.
No true christian believes that Jesus Christ is dead and none refer to him as though he was once alive but no longer. On the Damascus road, Paul professed to meet the living, resurrected Jesus Christ.
Paul never quotes Jesus or portrays him as a recently deceased religious teacher or saviour, or even that he lived at all. There is no mention of Mary and Joseph, no Sermon on the Mount or any of the miracles attributed by the Gospels to Jesus. There is no cleansing of the temple (which, according to Mark and Luke, was the cause of his trial and crucifixion) - in fact, by reading Paul you’d never know there was a trial. There is no agony in Gethsemane, no thieves crucified with Jesus, no Pilate, no Judas, nor any word about the place or time.
True, because Paul never witnessed any of those things. He wrote from his conversion forward.
In Hebrews 8:4 he writes: “If Jesus had been on earth, he wouldn’t have been a priest.”
and not ...
“When Jesus was on earth, he wasn’t a priest.”
That is because his Jesus Christ is mythical
This was not said because Christ was mythical. Because it's extracted from context, it is not clear from this snippet that Paul (let's be clear there is no certainty Paul was the author of the Hebrew's letter, but we needn't quibble over it) was giving a discourse on two types of priesthoods.
There were the lawful levitical priests who descended from the order of Aaron, the first high priest, and there was another type of priest of whom is glimpsed in the personhood of Melchiezidek. The author is stating, that Christ's priesthood (and hence religious authority) is of this latter type.
Christ was not a descendant of Levi and so "Heb 8:4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law." In other words, if he were presently on earth in the flesh, he would not be legally qualified to serve as a priest.
That's all it is saying. Jesus was not a priest because he was not a Levite, he was a Judahite. A completely different point is being made with regard to who is qualified to make the atoning sacrifice.
There is no mention of blood or atonement in the whole letter, so I don’t know why you’re reading that into it. And it is ‘words of wisdom’ not ‘wisdom’ itself that Paul is saying is not the way.
The difficulties are only insurmountable if you don’t understand Gnosticism, and this is why it won't be helpful to start from your bald summary, which doesn’t even begin to fathom its depths.
Each letter Paul wrote had a purpose and historical context and because one does not read of blood in a single letter does not mean Paul did not believe it. In fact as the corpus of his works are examined he very much preached principles that are completely anti-gnostic: Namely Christ came to earth in a human body and he suffered and died.
One need look no farther than Hebrews to see this:
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for[f]the sins of the people.
7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Shall I also quote all the many places Paul speaks of the blood and its actual purpose? It was not allegorical or metaphorical blood, but a hardcore reality as real as the animal blood which ran across the altar.
You may also remember this same ‘rushing mighty wind’ when God appeared to Elijah.
This is an initiation – a practical experience of the mystic that requires no words .... until afterwards, that is, when they all began gabbling ‘in tongues’!
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as like fire”. This tells us that this was the second initiation – the fire or Light initiation – the first one being the water (baptism).
That’s why Paul says he hasn’t come to baptise (even though he clearly states earlier that he has carried out baptisms). He means ‘just to baptise with water.'
He has come to offer a wordless teaching, an initiation, “less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
Paul did not preach baptism, initiation, or wisdom. Paul preached the most fundamental principle of christianity there is: faith.
The gnostic believes salvation is attainted through the acquisition of secret knowledge and often this knowledge is held by a certain elite and hope is dangled that through proper discipline, sacrifice, reasoning and work, one can gain access to the knowledge.
This is totally anitchristian and contrary to Paul's most basic message. he clearly states over and over that salvation is obtained through faith and not by any amount of mental of behavioural changes, no intitiations, no baptisms, nothing the individual can do in and of themselves.
7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
So if Paul was gnostic, why did he write about so many things contrary to gnostic beliefs? Why the emphasis on the physical Christ, his blood, and faith? Why no discussion of attaining salvation through wisdom, or knowledge? Why no mention of the evil creator or so many other basic gnostic principles?