Jesus v. Paul Round 2: And the winner is…

Make-overI’m re-reading Barrie Wilson’s excellent How Jesus Became Christian. Wilson makes the case that Paul’s Christianity was, and is, an entirely different religion from that of the historical Jesus. He shows how Paul’s ‘Christification’ changed the original mission of Jesus – to alert his fellow Jews to the imminence of God’s kingdom on Earth – ‘from one focused on the teachings of Jesus to one about the Christ’ (p242).

How right he is. This very the dichotomy troubled me in my own church-going days when evangelical Christianity, as it still does, consistently excluded the demanding, extreme and human Jesus of the synoptic gospels to focus instead on this illusory supernatural being. They preach sermons about him, sing hymns to him and intone creeds that skip glibly over everything Jesus said and did when he was alive. The Christ was, I came to see over time, an invention of Paul’s, the product of his strange hallucination sketchily recounted in Galatians 1.11-12 and 1 Corinthians 9.1 & 15.45. The Jesus he talks about is a sort of cosmic super-hero, a god-man of the type found in pagan religions in the first century. He has little or nothing to do with Jesus the Jew preacher and would-be Messiah, preserved – just about – in the three synoptic gospels.

So, the differences between Jesus and the Christ are profound. Here are a few of them, that I’ve drawn up, demonstrating that Christianity as we know it – essentially Paul’s ‘Christified’ version with inconvenient bits removed – bears little relation to the ‘good news’ of Jesus:

Jesus’ good news: God’s Kingdom on Earth imminent (Mark 9.1 etc)
Paul’s good news: Salvation through a dying/rising god-man (Romans 3.19-26; 4.24; 5.1-2; 5.10 etc)

Jesus presents as: Jewish Messiah claimant: ‘Son of Man’; Self-appointed judge and king in near future (Matthew 16.28; 13.41; Luke 22.30 etc)
Paul presents: Mystical saviour: The Christ, who saves those who ‘share’ in his death and resurrection; Christ as judge and ruler of mankind in near future (Romans 3.25; 6.1-11; 13.11-12; 1 Corinthians 15.20-28; Philippians 3.20)

Jesus’ qualifications: Teacher, preacher and healer; ideas rooted in Jewish prophecy; full of his own importance (Matthew 5.17; 7.12; 9.35; 25.40)
Paul’s qualifications: Builds entire religion on single hallucination; borrows heavily from pagan cults; full of his own importance (1 Corinthians 15.8; Galatians 1.15-16)

Jesus’ position: Adherent of Jewish Law; emphasises its importance (Mark 6.2; Matthew 5.19)
Paul’s position: Disregards Jewish Law; implies it is ‘dung’ (Romans 3.28; Galatians 5.6; Philippians 3.7-9)

Jesus insists on: Obedience to Jewish Law (Matthew 5.17-20)
Paul insists on: Faith in Christ and his resurrection (Romans 1.16-17; 3.22)

Jesus’ salvation requirement: Be righteous/perfect (Matthew 5.48; 13.43)
Paul’s salvation requirement: Faith (Romans 5.1; Galatians 2:15-16)

Jesus expects: Right behaviours and attitudes (Matthew 5.38-48)
Paul expects: Right belief (Romans 10.10-13)

Jesus’ teaching: Measure for measure morality (Matthew 6.38; 7.2; Luke 6.37); Forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 6.14); Show mercy in order to be shown it (Matthew 5.7); Give in order to receive (Matthew 6.38); Treat others as you wish to be treated (Matthew 7.12)
Paul’s teaching: Profess right belief (Romans 10.9)

Jesus’ commands: Love God (Matthew 22.37); Love your neighbour (Matthew 22.39); Love your enemy (Matthew 5.44)
Paul’s commands: Embrace Christ (Romans 8.35-38; Galatians 3.27); Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Romans 5.5; Galatians 5.16-18); Avoid those with different teaching (Romans 16.17; Galatians 6.6-9)

Jesus’ extremism: Give up everything you have (Mark 10.21; Luke 14.33); Give to all who ask (Matthew 5.42); Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5.39); cut off own hands, remove eyes (Mark 9.43-47); Consider castration (Matthew 19.12)
Paul’s extremism: No interest in anything Jesus taught when was alive; intolerance of Jesus’ original followers (Galatians 2.11-21)

Jesus’ guarantees: Resurrection/eternal life through demonstration of one’s personal righteousness once the Kingdom comes (Matthew 25.31-36)
Paul’s guarantees: Resurrection/eternal life for those with right belief and faith when Christ returns soon to judge mankind (1 Corinthians 15.20-28; 51-52)

Jesus’ outcomes: No Kingdom on Earth; no appearance of the Son of Man or a returned Jesus; disappearance of the movement that subscribed to Jesus’ ‘good news’
Paul’s outcomes: No appearance of the Christ; no rapture; no resurrection; no cosmic judgement

Jesus’ result: Failure
Paul’s result: Becomes mainstream Christianity; Paul wins!

As Wilson makes clear, the two are, despite some small overlap, very different belief systems. The Christ Christians worship is not the same as the Jesus they ignore. Nonetheless, they continue to pretend they are one and the same, unable to see that the join is, and always has been, a gaping hole.

i) Biblical references are by no means exhaustive; there are many others that support each point and difference.

ii) Details of Wilson’s book are:
Wilson, B. (2008) How Jesus Became Christian: The Early Christians and the Transformation of a Jewish Teacher into the Son of God. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.


6 thoughts on “Jesus v. Paul Round 2: And the winner is…

  1. Some Christians while acknowledging Paul’s salvation by grace/ faith never feel righteous due to their felt lack of obeying Christ’s commands.And I know how miserable they are.
    It’s a vicious religious circle they can’t escape since they won’t acknowledge the differences since they worship the “inerrancy” of the bible.


  2. I’m certainly free of trying to be or feel righteous before a fictitious god,but am I totally free of all the adverse effects of my years of faith? I’m still working on that.


  3. Everything Paul received was from Christ. Gal. 1:1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,
    vs. 11 – I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
    Peter and the disciple also gave Paul the right hand of fellowship and decided He should preach Christ to the gentiles.
    Galatians2 – 6But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)– well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 7But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8(for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles),…

    Also Christ CHOSE Paul to preach the gospel !!!
    Acts 9 : 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
    17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
    Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
    Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

    Also, the Bereans,
    Acts 17:10 – 10The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.…

    Paul, expounded on the message of Christ. he did not preach a different gospel and warned against doing such.
    8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!


    • Mike, there’s simply too much to respond to in your several very long comments so I’ll restrict myself to a few points:

      Firstly, it is of no use quoting great wodges of scripture at me or anyone else who doesn’t subscribe to its supposed authority. It’s as effective as me quoting the Quran at you.

      Secondly, because I don’t come to the Bible with the eyes of faith, I don’t attempt to harmonise its many major discrepancies, such as the fact Paul’s gospel is significantly different from Jesus’ and from that of the original disciples. It is they Paul is claiming have the wrong gospel while only he has the right one. The early church under Jesus’ brother James, as well as Jesus himself, said the Law stood; only Paul said it didn’t (see Barrie Wilson’s How Jesus Became Christian.) You, like most modern day Christians, choose Paul over Jesus.

      Thirdly, Paul did not get his gospel from Jesus – Christ maybe, but not Jesus. Why? Because Paul’s Christ is a figment of his own imagination as he tells us in Galatians 1.12, which you quote. Again, you are basing your life, not on the teachings of Jesus as we know them, but on a different man’s vision/hallucination/’revelation’.

      Fourthly, the point Jesus makes about judging, in Matthew 7.1-2, is that the judgement you use of others will be exactly the same judgement you can expect to receive in return (from others and/or from God – he’s not clear.) That’s why he recommends you don’t judge – this he is clear about, however his later followers might have behaved.

      Finally, I’m afraid you don’t understand evolution if you think creatures make ‘presto-changes’ one into another. Of course it doesn’t happen like that; you – or rather Ken Ham – are merely shaking sticks at a strawman of your own making. ‘New information’ is added to an individual’s genes every time they’re shuffled in sexual reproduction; that is why reproduction involves sex for most creatures – your God didn’t just create it for human pleasure, you know. Errors in replication also change the information.

      Can I suggest, Mike, you put your Bible down for a while and read some real books instead – Dawkins is very good on evolution (eg: The Greatest Show On Earth) and Ehrman on the Bible (eg: Jesus Interrupted.) You’d learn a lot, I promise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.