The Apostle Paul Founder of Christianity
by Lewis Loflin
Jesus was not the founder of Christianity as we know it today. Most of the New Testament doesn't even concern the historical Jesus while the main influence is the Apostle Paul and through the church he founded at Ephesus a Greek convert named John. Paul never met Jesus in the flesh, he only claimed some spiritual visions and proceeded to Hellenize the teachings of Jesus (who preached a generic form of Judaism), until he created Pauline Christianity. Because there are no known writings from Jesus or His actual Apostles, most of what He really taught is remains controversial. Also see the disputed Gnostic Gospels.
But according to Paul, Jesus' teachings are not relevant to salvation. While Jesus is regarded by Christians as the founder of the faith, Paul's role in defining Christianity can't be ignored and trumps Jesus on theology. "Paul is regarded as the great interpreter of Jesus' mission, who explained, in a way that Jesus himself never did, how Jesus' life and death fitted into a cosmic scheme of salvation, stretching from the creation of Adam to the end of time." The doctrines of Christianity come mostly from the teaching or influence of Paul, a Pharisee(?) who rejected his Pharisaic Judaism.
His worship was that of a "Christ" totally unrelated to the Jewish Messiah, a nationalist (and human) figure that was supposed to free the nation from foreign (Roman) rule. Paul would later be placed over his Jewish-Christian rivals by a Gnostic heretic named Marcion. See Marcion. The Church in its struggles with both Marcion and the Gnostics was forced to define itself and launch an internal war to silence opponents.
What is shown below is taken word for word from The Sierra Reference Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996 P. F. Collier, L. P. All rights reserved.
PAUL, ST. (died c. A.D. 68), founder of Pauline Christianity. His name was originally Saul. He later claimed that he was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, from a long-established Pharisee family in Tarsus. According to Acts (though not according to Paul himself) he studied in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, the leader of the Pharisees and grandson of Hillel.
While still a youth in Jerusalem, Saul became part of the opposition to the newly formed Jerusalem Church (the disciples of Jesus, who, believing that Jesus had been resurrected, continued to hope for his return to complete his messianic mission). Saul was present at the death of Stephen. Soon after, Saul was an active persecutor of the Jerusalem Church, entering its synagogues and arresting its members. Acts represents this as due to Saul's zeal as a Pharisee, but this is doubtful, as the Pharisees, under Gamaliel, were friendly to the Jerusalem Church (see Acts 5).
Moreover, Saul was acting in concert with the high priest (Acts 9:2), who was a Sadducee opponent of the Pharisees. It seems likely that Saul was at this period an employee of the Roman-appointed high priest, playing a police role in suppressing movements regarded as a threat to the Roman occupation. Since Jesus had been crucified on a charge of sedition, his followers were under the same cloud.
The high priest then entrusted Saul with an important mission, which was to travel to Damascus to arrest prominent members of the Jerusalem Church. This must have been a clandestine kidnapping operation, since Damascus was not under Roman rule at the time but was in fact a place of refuge for the persecuted Nazarenes.
After his vision, according to Paul's own account (Galatians 1:17), he went into the desert of Arabia for a period, seeking no instruction. According to Acts, however, he sought instruction first from Ananias of Damascus and then from the apostles in Jerusalem. These contradictory accounts reflect a change in Paul's status: in his own view, he had received a revelation that put him far higher than the apostles, while in later Church opinion he had experienced a conversion that was only the beginning of his development as a Christian.
Paul's self-assessment is closer to the historical truth, which is that he was the founder of Christianity. Neither Jesus himself nor his disciples had any intention of founding a new religion. The need for a semblance of continuity between Christianity and Judaism, and between Gentile and Jewish Christianity, led to a playing-down of Paul's creative role. The split that took place between Paul and the Jerusalem Church is minimized in the Paulinist book of Acts, which contrasts with Paul's earlier and more authentic account in Galatians 2.
Paul's originality lies in his conception of the death of Jesus as saving mankind from sin. Instead of seeing Jesus as a messiah of the Jewish type human savior from political bondage, he saw him as a salvation-deity whose atoning death by violence was necessary to release his devotees for immortal life. This view of Jesus' death seems to have come to Paul in his Damascus vision. Its roots lie not in Judaism, but in mystery-religion, with which Paul was acquainted in Tarsus.
Paul's missionary campaign began c.44 in Antioch. He journeyed to Cyprus, where he converted Sergius Paulus, the governor of the island. It was probably at this point that he changed his name from Saul to Paul, in honor of his distinguished convert. After journeys in Asia Minor where he made many converts, Paul returned to Antioch. His second missionary tour (51-53) took him as far as Corinth; and his third (54-58) led to a three-year stay in Ephesus. It was during these missionary periods that he wrote his Epistles.
Paul's new religion had the advantage over other salvation-cults of being attached to the Hebrew Scriptures, which Paul now reinterpreted as forecasting the salvation-death of Jesus. This gave Pauline Christianity an awesome authority that proved attractive to Gentiles thirsting for salvation.
At the ensuing conference, agreement was reached that Paul's Gentile converts did not need to observe the Torah. This was not a revolutionary decision, since Judaism had never insisted on full conversion to Judaism for Gentiles. But Paul on this occasion concealed his belief that the Torah was no longer valid for Jews either. He was thus confirmed in the role of "apostle to the Gentiles," with full permission to enroll Gentiles in the messianic movement without requiring full conversion to Judaism.
It was when Peter visited him in Antioch and became aware of the full extent of Paul's views that a serious rift began between Pauline and Jewish Christianity. At a second conference in Jerusalem (c.55), Paul was accused by James of teaching Jews "to turn their backs on Moses" (Acts 21:21). Again, however, Paul evaded the charge by concealing his views, and he agreed to undergo a test of his own observance of the Torah.
The Roman commandant, Claudius Lysias, decided to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin in order to discover the cause of the disturbance. With great presence of mind, Paul appealed to the Pharisee majority to acquit him, claiming to be a Pharisee like James. Paul was rescued by the Pharisees from the high priest, like Peter before him.
Paul's authentic voice is found in his Epistles. Here he appears as an eloquent writer, skilled in asserting his authority over his converts as their inspired teacher.
An excellent book on this subject by Hyam MacCoby is titled The Mythmaker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity. (ISBN 0-06-015582--5)
The Pauline Epistles (or Corpus Paulinum) constitute those epistles traditionally attributed to Paul. Their names are based on the Christian groups or individuals to whom they are addressed.
Paul, as true of all New Testament writings wrote in Greek. He was a Hellenistic Jew (or from a family of converts) and a member of the vast Jewish Diaspora. Paul's Hellenistic Judaism wasn't new at all, but part of a process begun about 300 BC. The Jewish populations at that time may have been between 5-7 million concentrated mainly in what is called the Middle East and Turkey today.
But if Greek philosophy and Zoroastrian theology gave Jewish officials problems in the Holy Land, Hellenistic Judaism made millions of converts outside Judea. Foremost stands Paul's contemporary Philo of Alexandria. His synthesis of Platonism and Judaism would influence not only the Church Fathers, but the writer of John's Gospel, believed to have lived in Ephesus.* This is one of the churches Paul founded.
* Ephesus is favored, others argue Antioch in Syria or Alexandria Egypt. (New American Bible) According to the Eastern Orthodox Church, all of the New Testament Gospels "written in the vernacular Greek, an Alexandrian dialect, called koine." See The Gospels
Matthew, Mark, and John never mention Paul or Luke. The Gospel of Luke doesn't either, but the same writer (believed to have written Acts) introduces Paul and also knew Mark. (Acts 12:25, And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.) Peter (not written by Peter) also mentions and endorses Paul (2 Peter 3:15), but the whole Gospel sounds too much like Paul. Paul mentions Mark (2 Timothy 4:11, Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.) and in particular Luke his "beloved" physician. (Colossians 4:14) Mark's Gospel never mentions Paul.
The original (Jewish) sect Jesus founded were those attacked as "Judanizers" and were exterminated for heresy after Nicaea in 325 AD. One group was the Nazarenes who followed the Torah while believing Jesus only to be human. Another was the Ebionites, who believed Jesus was human, but also observed the Torah. (The two groups seem interchangeable.) Putting the New Testament books in the approximate correct order by date written:
Paul, like the other writers, expected the Kingdom of God in their lifetimes and the end of the world in their lifetimes. (Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32, John 21:22) Matthew 16:28, "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." This is about the only place Paul agrees with the other gospel writers.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord... (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
Paul's theology is the main basis of Christian dogma.
First was the concept that the death and resurrection of Jesus superseded the value of the Mosaic Law, a belief that is often expressed as "Jesus died for our sins." It is unclear how much of this idea is original with Paul; Jerome notes the existence in the 4th century of a Christian sect in Syria called the Ebionites who still observed the Mosaic Law, thus suggesting at least some Christians may not have believed in the salvation theology of the Passion.
However, there is some evidence that suggests Paul's concept of salvation coming from the death of Jesus was not unique amongst Christians; Philippians 2:5-11 which expounds a Christology similar to Paul's, has long been identified as a hymn of the early Christians, and dated as existing before Paul's letter.
In the New Testament the doctrine of original sin is most clearly expressed by Paul's writings. His writings also clearly express the doctrine that salvation is not achieved by conforming to Mosaic law, but through faith in (or faith of) Jesus Christ. Paul was first Evangelist to expound the doctrine of Christ's divinity.
Paul also develops a strong doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Much of Romans and particularly the ending to 2 Corinthians portrays the Spirit in equality to the Father and Son. These inferences would later be developed into the doctrine of the Trinity. Paul's notion that the Holy Spirit dwells in all believers at the time of their conversion. (source Wikipedia)
The Only Begotten Son?
In the New Testament Jesus is often called the "Son of God." Paul in Hebrews 11:17 claims Isaac was Abraham's "only begotten son." Isaac was begotten in the sense the Lord made it possible through Sarah, but Isaac was in no manner divine. But what does "son of God" really mean?
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Genesis 6:2) There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)
John also used the term: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name..." (John 1:12) Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
Paul uses the term in an identical manner: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14) For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
So as Paul and John illustrate, one who is righteous becomes a "son of God."
The term "only begotten Son" is used in relation Jesus only by the writer of John: For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:17-18. Also John 3:16, 3:18, and 1 John 4:9)
The writer of John is believed to be a Greek convert and his lack of knowledge of Judaism and the Torah is as appalling as his hatred of Jews. (He uses "Jews" as a slur over 60 times in the Gospel of John alone.) First, the Law was given directly by God to Moses. Whomever wrote John is not quoting Jesus, he is giving us his own opinion. Third, Jesus is not the only "only begotten Son" of God: I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalms 2:7) Psalms is believed to be written by David.
When the writer of John does quote Jesus, "But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham." (John 8:40) And according to Paul's follower Luke, "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
But John 8:40 is contradicted by John 5:18, "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God." According to the New American Bible most scholars believe John had been altered and rewritten. That is the opinion of the writer of John, Jesus did not say it. The same story is in the other Gospels without that claim. Does that mean anyone that becomes a "son of God" becomes an equal to God? (These claims are lies. See Did Jews Kill Jesus Christ?
Jesus was a man, a human ordained by God to show us the way. So like David (Psalms 132:10, etc.), he was an "anointed" servant of God. Jesus and David were not the only "anointed," "Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden.." (Isaiah 45:1) One doesn't even have to be a Jew to be "anointed" and anyone can be a "son" (or daughter) of the Lord as long we act in righteous manner and obey God's Laws.
What does Paul say about God's Law? "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Galatians 3:10) But Paul goes on, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree..." (Galatians 3:13)
Paul, under the influence of Gnosticism, believed anything off the "world" was vile and corrupt. Thus he sought a spiritual way to salvation as opposed to Judaism and the Law which are of the physical world.
Does he mean Jesus? Jesus is cursed? Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Law was a curse, except by Paul. What does Jesus say about the Law? "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) "But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed." (John 7:49) And what does God say? "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen." (Deut 27:26)
Paul contradicts both God and Jesus at every turn. The Gentile writer of John was certainly not the Apostle John, referring to the "Jews" and "their Law" in many places. It's a second hand story mixed with a lot of Greek Platonism and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Nearly all Christian dogma is based on Paul and a misreading of John. Jesus, the "anointed" servant of God, is reduced to mere shadow. An object of worship (idolatry), not one to be followed. Jesus is no Platonic Logos.
But is Jesus God? "I and my Father are one." said Jesus. (John 10:30) But that must stand beside John 17:22-23, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
Paul had no interest in the earthly life of Jesus and cared little for those that did. He spoke only of a spiritual Christ. Even in his own words, he claims to be sent directly by God to be an apostle. (1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God...) Thus Paul by his own claims, had a direct line to God, something the original apostles never had.
By tradition, Mark brought the Gospel to Egypt while Peter brought the Gospel to Rome. But the connection back to Paul is clear. Mark and in particular Peter being one of the original twelve, directly disobeyed Jesus. But what did Jesus have to say? "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not..." (Matthew 10:5) This was missing from Luke and Mark, Paul's followers. In Acts Luke claims Peter had a special revelation that overruled earlier teachings.
What does Paul say about preaching to Gentiles? "And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles..." (Galatians 2:2) So who did Paul get revelations from?
Jesus himself never mentioned Adam, the Garden, etc. All of this is based on Paul alone, and the entire concept of no death before the Fall of Adam is also Paul, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." (Romans 5:14) "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Paul's claims we are all being punished for Adam's sin, even if we never sinned ourselves. This is so unjust from God who stands for justice. But what does God has to say? But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right... he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD. If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things...he (the son) shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him..." (Ezekiel 18:5, etc.) As God explained in Ezekiel, only the sinner will be punished for their own sins and not the sins of others. Nor will others be punished for sins they did not commit.
Paul also misquotes the Torah in relation to Abraham, "For if Abraham were justified by works, he had whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and was counted unto him for righteousness. Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
But is that what God had to say? "[B]ecause thou [Abraham] hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:16-18.
James agrees with God, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by his works was made perfect?" (James 2:19-22)
In no manner had Abraham "offered up" his son Isaac. He was ordered by God to sacrifice Isaac (as a test) and because Abraham obeyed God's commands, he was blessed. Paul rewrote this vital passage to reflect his own theology, not that of God.
It's clear that without Paul, there would no Christianity outside a Jewish sect following the Torah. The church in order to make it look like Jesus was the founder of Pauline Christianity, rearranged the order in which the New Testament books were written. (We should note there was no New Testament as such until Marcion in the 2nd century.)
Paul's social views and Christian doctrine
Paul's writings on social issues were just as influential on the life and beliefs of the Christian culture ever since as were his doctrinal statements. In fact, being part of the texts that were generally accepted as inspired scripture, these views were and still are considered part and parcel of the broader Christian doctrine by the more conservative Christians.
Paul condemned sexual immorality, including homosexuality, apparently based on the strict moral laws of the Old Testament, as well as presumably his own private revelation from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:9f; Eph. 5:21-33). (Paul is traditionally considered a virgin.) Some of his other dictums included advice to his contemporaries not to marry in the expectation of the near return of Jesus and the Apocalypse; permission to marry, or at least to stay married to, an unbeliever, in the hope that the spouse of a Christian will be converted sooner or later.
Paul may have been ambivalent towards slavery, saying that pending the near return of Jesus, people should focus on their faith and not on their social status (1 Cor. 7:21f). Due to his authority, these views have had an influence in Western society into modern times; Paul's apparent failure to explicitly condemn slavery in his Epistle to Philemon may have been sometimes interpreted as justifying the ownership of human beings. (Wikipedia)
Is Christianity Just Zoroastrianism?
Many accuse Christianity of being a rehash of Zoroastrianism. I don't believe it is. If we take most of Christianity, there is nothing new or original accept one thing: Paul's theology of Original Sin, which doesn't exist in Judaism or Zoroastrianism. (While the term doesn't appear in the Bible either, it is clearly stated by Paul.)
Religion and History
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