Skip to comments.Is the Founder of the Christian Religion Paul of Tarsus or Jesus of Nazareth?
Posted on 02/24/2014 2:10:01 PM PST by SeekAndFind
Many skeptics assert that Paul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul) hijacked the early Christian religion, changing the theology from what Jesus originally taught. Usually offered as proof for this claim are the doctrines found in Paul's great theological work, his letter to the Romans. Without a doubt, the book of Romans contains the most complete exposition of orthodox Christian doctrines. Are these doctrines contrary to what Jesus taught? Do they conflict with the teachings of the Old Testament from which they were purportedly derived? If Paul really "invented" Christianity, then one would expect that his teachings would be different from Jesus, the other apostles, and disciples.
Christians claim that Paul of Tarsus met Jesus on a trip to persecute Christians in Damascus. Struck blind for three days, Paul waited for Ananias (one of Jesus' followers) to heal him. Converted by the experience, Paul passionately proclaimed the gospel to the Jewish and Gentile world. This gospel included doctrines including the atonement of sin through Jesus' death on the cross and justification through faith. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, indicated that he received this gospel by revelation of Jesus Christ:
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)
If it were true that Paul received his teaching directly from Jesus Christ, then surely Jesus Himself would have taught what Paul was preaching.
The basis of the gospel is the belief that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. Jesus clearly indicated that His purpose was to come to die on a cross for the sins of the world.2 This concept was not a new one, since Isaiah first prophesied that the Messiah would die for our sins.1 Paul, of course taught this doctrine,3 as did John, Luke, and Peter.4 Other crucial doctrines taught by Paul were also taught by Jesus and the disciples:
For a list of verses, see the table below.
|Doctrine||First Taught||Verse||Taught by|
|Atonement by death on cross||Isaiah||Isaiah 53:5-121||Matthew 10:38, 16:24, 26:28, Mark 8:34, 14:24, Luke 9:23, 14:27, 22:20, John 12:32-332||1 Corinthians 1:18, 11:25, Ephesians 2:8, 16, Colossians 1:20, 2:143||John 1:29, 36, Acts 8:32, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 2:24, Revelation 5:12-14, 7:144|
|Believe in Jesus for eternal life||Job||Job 19:25-265||Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29-30, Luke 9:24, John 3:166||Romans 5:21, 6:23, 1 Timothy 1:16, Jude 1:217||Acts 11:17-18, 1 John 5:118|
|Righteousness by faith||Moses, Habakkuk||Genesis 15:6, Habakkuk 2:49||Mark 11:22, Luke 7:5010||Romans 1:17, 3:22, 3:25-26, 4:3, 9, 11, 13, 5:17, 9:30, 10:4, 10, Galatians 3:6, 11, Philippians 3:911||Hebrews 11:4, 7, 2 Peter 1:112|
|Justification by faith||Moses||Genesis 15:6, Isaiah 53:1113||Luke 7:50, 8:12 Mark 16:16, John 3:18, 5:2414||Romans 3:28, 30, 5:1, 18, Galatians 2:16, 3:8, 2415||James 2:2316|
|Forgiveness of sin through faith||David||2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 86:5, Jeremiah 31:33-3417||Matthew 9:2, 6, 26:27-28, Mark 2:5, 10-11, Luke 5:20, 24, Acts 26:1818||Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, 4:32, Colossians 1:13-14, 2:13, 3:1319||Luke 1:76-77, Acts 2:38, 5:31, 10:43, 13:38, Hebrews 10:18-20, James 5:15, 1 John 1:7-9, 2:1220|
|Repentance||Isaiah||Isaiah 1:27, 30:15, Ezekiel 18:3221||Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15, Luke 5:32, 13:3, 24:46-4722||Romans 2:4, 2 Corinthians 7:9-1023||Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 2:38, 17:30, 20:21, 2 Peter 3:924|
Besides the core doctrines of Christianity, Paul taught on many other theological topics, also taught by Jesus. Below is a list of some of these teachings (found in the gospels) compared to what Paul taught in his letters to the churches.
|Parable of sower||1 Corinthians 3:6-10||Matthew 13:1-23|
|Stumbling stone||Romans 9:33||Matthew 18:7|
|Ruling against divorce||1 Corinthians 7:10||Mark 10:11|
|Support for apostles||1 Corinthians 9:14||Luke 10:7|
|Institution of Lord's supper||1 Corinthians 11:23-26||Matthew 26:26-28|
|Command concerning prophets||1 Corinthians 14:37||Matthew 23:34|
|Lord's return||1 Thessalonians 4:15||Matthew 24:1-51|
|Blessing of the persecuted||Romans 12:14||Luke 6:27|
|Don't repay evil with evil||Romans 12:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:15||Matthew 5:38-48, Luke 6:27|
|Pay taxes to authorities||Romans 13:7||Mark 12:12-17|
|No stumbling block||Romans 14:13||Mark 9:42|
|Nothing is unclean||Romans 14:14||Mark 7:15|
|Thief in the night
|1 Thessalonians 5:2||Luke 12:39|
|Peace among yourselves||1 Thessalonians 5:13||Mark 9:50|
|Peace with everyone||Romans 12:18||Mark 9:50|
|Do not judge||Romans 13:10||Luke 6:37|
The claim is often made in skeptical circles that Paul never describes the man Jesus of Nazareth, but only refers to a celestial Jesus. Of course, the claim is false, although the claim seems to be believed by a number of skeptics who probably never read any of Paul's New Testament books. In reality, Paul indicates that Jesus came into the world,25 and that he himself saw Him.26 In addition, Paul states that Jesus was a man27 made of flesh,28 ate and drank,29 bled,30 was crucified,31 died,32 and was raised from the dead.33 These are not the kinds of things that happen to some ghost Jesus. In virtually every book he authored (over 80 verses that I found), Paul clearly makes reference to Jesus the man, who lived and died on earth.
|Jesus came into the world||1 Timothy 1:15, Philippians 2:5-825|
|Jesus was seen by Paul||1 Corinthians 9:126|
|Jesus was a man||Romans 5:15, 1 Timothy 2:5, Philippians 2:5-827|
|Jesus was flesh||Romans 1:3, 8:3, 9:5, 2 Corinthians 5:16, Ephesians 2:14-15, 1 Timothy 3:1628|
|Jesus ate and drank||1 Corinthians 11:23-2529|
|Jesus bled||Romans 3:24-25, 5:9, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:25, 27 Ephesians 1:7, 2:13, Colossians 1:2030|
|Jesus was crucified||1 Corinthians 1:13, 23, 2:2, 8, 2 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 3:1, Philippians 2:831|
|Jesus died||Romans 5:6, 8, 10 6:3, 5, 9-10, 8:34, 14:9, 15, 1 Corinthians 8:11, 11:26 15:3, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Galatians 2:21, Philippians 2:8, 3:10, Colossians 1:22, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 5:1032|
|Jesus was raised from the dead||Romans 1:4, 4:24-25, 6:4-5 9, 7:4, 8:11, 34, 9:17, 10:9, 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:4, 12-17, 20, 2 Corinthians 4:14, 5:15 Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 4:1433|
The idea that Paul invented Christianity out of some theological vacuum is completely without merit. Although Paul's Letter to the Romans is radically different from just about any other book of the Bible, the teachings found in the Book of Romans is also found in the Old Testament, the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the disciples. So, Paul didn't just make up doctrines to create a new religion. However, he did write the greatest theological treatise of all time in the Book of Romans. Not only are the core doctrines of Christianity found outside Paul's writings, but Paul himself taught many other theological issues that reflect the teachings of Jesus during His years of ministry. Contrary to the claims of some, Paul did not just write about some "cosmic Jesus," but described Jesus as a real man who lived and died on planet earth. In conclusion, Paul of Tarsus did not invent Christianity, but clarified the teachings of the Bible as no other Bible author ever has. In addition to his great theological writings, Paul was Christianity's greatest evangelist.
Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? by David Wenham. Oxford New Testament lecturer Wenham examines the question, Was Paul thoroughly aware of Jesus' life and teaching, or did he largely create Christianity himself? Most of the discussion utilizes comparison of brief passages from the Epistles to the final written Gospels. Wenham points out both parallels and divergences, considering how Paul's writings and teachings may have influenced the oral traditions and early written texts that coalesced into the Gospels, and vice versa. He makes a strong case that most, but not all, of Paul's beliefs conform to the received Jesus tradition.
That is some really theowonky stuff!
I posted this as a reference for Christians who tell me that they have encountered on many occasions, people who claim that Paul “invented” Christianity.
The basic idea is that Jesus taught a pure and ethical form of Judaism that focused on God and gracious living, while Paul developed a religion that worshiped Jesus rather than God.
Though this idea literally makes no sense historically, it’s gotten a lot of run. Even the occasional serious academic book “blames” Paul for perverting Jesus’ message in inventing Christianity.
Hence, this article.
The last time I ever heard of the Pauline theology, or the gospel of Paul was in the 70’s ... mid 80’s
Homosexuals and feminists hate the teachings of Paul, but Jesus instructed Paul after his conversion. Paul’s teachings are Jesus ‘ teachings.
I didn't know it at the time, but it was A beginning to the anti MALE Christian sentiment we know today and the beginning of the "women can be pastors" movement.
On the other hand, there is Hyam Maccoby’s “Revolution In Judaea: Jesus and The Jewish Resistance” which gives a fairly strident Jewish perspective on the issue.
Whenever I read assertions that Saul of Tarsus invented Christian doctrine, I am apPauled...
RE: Homosexuals and feminists hate the teachings of Paul,
Supporters of gay marriage often argue that homosexuality must not have been a big deal with Jesus since He never said anything about it in the gospels.
Only Paul condemned it... ergo, Paul ADDED his own teachings.
It is incontrovertible that Judaism/Noachism was founded by G-d A-mighty. People should be satisfied with that. No further "development" attributed to a "prophet" or (chas vechalilah!) "gxd-man" is even necessary.
Why do all chrstians without exception simply assume from the outset that J*sus/the Church/the "new testament" have the right to authentically interpret and apply the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible???
I recall being shocked one time at church when someone said something like “Oh, Paul. I don’t believe any of his books.” I thought they were joking and quipped something about Luke I think. “Oh - Luke is okay - just Paul and all of that stuff about women being silent, wearing hats, etc.”
You should feel asSAULted ;)
Jesus didn't have to; his audience was already steeped in Leviticus 18, and one of the ways they saw themselves as separate from the Gentiles was in their unwillingness to accept homosexual acts. Paul, OTOH, as the presenter of the gospel to those same Gentiles, would have to have confronted the issue directly, which he does, to the two groups whose local cultures would have been most steeped in homosexuality: Rome and Corinth.
No, but I might be charged with battery, depending on the voltage of the battery
God predestined Saul to be on the road to Damascus and thus give us so many books of the bible. The things God gave him went against everything he believed when he was Saul. Paul was faithful even unto death.
Some people want Paul out because he calls homosexuality a sin. They think removing Paul will free them of their guilty feelings. Once Adam and Eve at of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, there eyes (and ours) were open to good and evil. Some people continue in sin and have hardened their hearts and no longer have there eyes open. Satan has blinded them.
We had a prominent FReeper come out and say the same thing, right here in the Religion Forum, several years ago.
Paul’s letters are consistent with Jesus’s teachings as are the words of the prophets of the Old Testament. Paul said repeatedly that he was a follower of Jesus, that he believed in Jesus and that he wanted to spread the gospel of Jesus. Paul’s letters were probably no different than the gospel spread by the Apostles and the other early Christians. Paul is significant in that his writings survive until today.
RE: Oh - Luke is okay - just Paul and all of that stuff about women being silent, wearing hats, etc
But Luke wrote the book of Acts, which details Jesus’ commissioning of Saul, who changed his name to Paul, who then brought the gospel to the gentiles.
If “Luke is Okay” in the book of Acts, then Jesus’ commissioning of Paul should be Okay too, and by extension, Paul’s teaching should be Jesus’ teachings.
Paul’s mission was to carry Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles.
RE: Why do all chrstians without exception simply assume from the outset that J*sus/the Church/the “new testament” have the right to authentically interpret and apply the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible???
I think you can replace the word ‘Christians’ above with Jews and it would also be a relevant question.
Christianity was never “founded”.
That’s what this is about. Gospels are historical biographies of Jesus. Espistles describe the church with specific doctrine and morality. Liberals are evil and despise morality.
The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Vol. 1)
Paul, Missionary of Jesus (Vol. 2)
Finding the Historical Christ (Vol. 3)
Paul. The heretics’ favorite bad guy.
Very good! I had thought aboutthe first part but not the second part.
Well, it certainly wasn't losted :-)
Seriously, to say that Christianity was "founded" is simply to denote a moment in time that splits what was before with what is afterward: beforehand the Messiah was a future hope for whom people waited, afterward He was a recognizable figure who could be specifically worshipped.
Because Jesus is the messiah spoken of in the Torah and by the Prophets.
Why is anyone even asking this? I guess the person who wrote the article believed that to be a Christian is to practice a religion rather than having a relationship with God because of the finished work of Jesus Christ!
Tough article on the Catholics.
S&A: “I posted this as a reference for Christians who tell me that they have encountered on many occasions, people who claim that Paul invented Christianity.”
Thank you. Many years ago, in a spiritual chatroom, I ran into a person who called himself Christian, but excluded all of St. Paul’s letters from his version of the Bible. His arguments never made sense to me. And I rejected them.
He was the only person I’ve ever seen declare that “belief.”
?? How’s that?
If you were studying early America would you learn more from Columbus or the American Indians?
I would learn far more from Jesus than Paul writing about Jesus. But the more sources I can get the better my understanding becomes.
Thanks for posting this.
Back in Norman Vincent Peale’s heyday, someone commented that he found Paul appealing and Peale appalling.
Jesus didn’t have to say anything about homosexuality — because He had already said it — in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Read Leviticus 18; warning: it is very graphic especially if you read the NIV, NKJV, and the NASB.
In my experience, when someone tries to set Jesus and Paul against each other, it’s a major hint that I’m dealing with some kind of apostate. Suddenly, my open-mindedness goes on vacation.
Because the list of topics and references disagree with Catholic doctrine per Trent? Canons 9/12/14/20 on justification for starters.
Read Acts 9:15
Christ founded the Church on the Apostles, the first Bishops. Paul wasn’t even there.
Jesus said, I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." John 16:12-14
Many of those things to be revealed were revealed through Paul.
The people the article is addressing -- those who think that Paul corrupted Christianity -- are almost invariably Judaizers who come from one or the other cultic offshoot of Protestantism. A Catholic who rejects Paul is automatically at least a material heretic.
Jesus did not change Saul’s name to Paul.
Some believe that Paul was just the Roman/Latin equivalent of Saul, but the Bible gives us no explanation as to why two different names are used.
Maybe I am misreading your post.
So you believe Jesus designated Paul as the Spirit of Truth?!
I did not say Jesus changed Saul’s name to Paul.
I think Saul is his Hebrew name, while Paul is his Latin name which he uses for Gentiles in the Roman Empire.
Paul is from the Roman family name Paulus, which meant “small” or “humble” in Latin.
Saul on the other hand is from the Hebrew name Sha’ul which meant “asked for” or “prayed for”.
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