This post is a follow-on to ‘Saint Paul, a few notes‘ and ideally you should read it first. (Just click on the linked title.) This Zingcreed Post looks closely at the argument that Paul diverged from Jesus’s teaching, and in fact invented a whole load of new stuff that would have astonished Jesus. Thanks to Paul the Christianity we see around us today as a world religion is different from what would have arisen if it had been left up to the apostles e.g. the 3 ‘pillars’ of the Jerusalem church: Simon Peter (later Bishop of Rome – the ‘first pope’), James the Just (Jesus’s communist brother) and John. They were more Jewish than Paul (or Jesus for that matter) in their ways, practicing circumcision, observing the dietary Laws, etc. Their sharing of possessions, their poverty and adherence to the altruistic ways of Jesus, putting good works before doctrine for example, would have created a wholly different beast to the Paul-ine body which eventually declared them to be heretics. (See Sources at end of this Post.)
Emperor Constantine would -in my humble view- not have taken over the church in the fourth century and given it the power and trappings of the Roman Empire if it had followed the Jerusalem tradition instead of the Pauline one. It’s only now, centuries on, that we are able to see this and say this. What Constantine did I’ve summarized in ‘How the Emperor Constantine corrupted Christianity.’
If…the Jerusalem church had not been ‘knocked for six’ (a cricketing term, dear American readers) as collateral damage by Titus when he levelled Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
If…some Pharisee tent maker with a misogynistic streak had not had an epileptic fit on the road to Damascus,
If...a roman ruler had not had a vision telling him to go into battle under the sign of the cross, a battle which he unfortunately won…
…then we in the West might all still be worshiping the sun God Mithras, or Thor and Woden…..
Would the world really be a worse place? (Check the Zingcreed index for ‘Christian atrocities’ – there’s a long list!)
Paul differs from Jesus in many of his writings. I’m not going to list them all as some issues are nit-picking, some are of interest only to those involved in the evangelical/progressive squabble, some are debatable, and some are just plain boring. (Oh, and some are incomprehensible to my simple scientist’s mind!) Here are a few. Several websites go to town on this – pages and pages of irreconcilable differences between the 2 great men. I’ve listed them at the bottom of the page. I am just showing the tip of this iceberg, as it were:-
- Jesus upheld the Jewish Laws such as the Ten Commandments
(Mk 10:18-19; Mt 5:17-19; Mt 19:17; Lk 18:20)
Paul said the Laws were a curse and like a yoke, and that they were wiped out by Jesus!
(Eph 2:15; Col 2:14; 2 Cor 3:11-17; Rom 2:13 & 7:1-3; Gal 2:16; 3:11 & 24)
- Jesus said that good works are necessary and meaningful
(Mt 5:16; Jn 10:24-25)
Paul maintained that good works were worthless and unnecessary
(Eph 2:8-9; Gal 3:6-14)
- Jesus said that celibacy was just an option
Paul advised all believers not to seek marriage but to be as he was, i.e. celibate
(1 Cor 7:3; 1 Cor 10:27-28)
- Jesus said atonement through sacrifice wasn’t necessary
(Mk 12:28-29; Mt 9:13)
Paul said we can only be saved through Jesus’s blood sacrifice on the cross
(Eph 5:2; Gal 3:13; Heb 9:26)
- Jesus never stops talking about the Kingdom of God
Paul never mentions the impending Kingdom; nor for that matter the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, nor the virgin birth. I think that’s enough; the topic doesn’t fascinate me as much as it does a lot of other people.
I’ll conclude by pointing out in the interests of theological fairness that most mainstream Christians (see examples below) see Paul as developing and clarifying Jesus’s message, not muddying the crystal clear waters at all!
Hooker, Morna “Paul. A beginner’s guide” Oneworld (2003)
Wenham, David “Did St Paul get Jesus right? The gospel according to Paul” Lion (2010)
Related Zincreed Posts:
Hebrew to Hellenist, how the church metamorphosed
Ebionites, the residual Hebrew Christians
Pagan influences on the early church
Jesus’s communist brother James (1) His life
Jesus’s communist brother James (2) His epistle
Kazantzakis: When Paul met Jesus
New testament timeline
Saint Paul – a few notes
Post 508: How Paul and Luke rewrote history to marginalize James’ early church
How Emperor Constantine corrupted Christianity
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