It is a position that many Christian scholars and thinkers have espoused over the years. I think that this link would provide a good exposition of the position I am referring to.


Basically it says that Luke's writing isn't completely trustworthy and that Paul's epistles show much innovation from Jesus' teaching. The Jerusalem Church started by Jesus, led by Peter and James, believed in salvation through following the Law, as taught by Jesus in for example in Matthew 5:17-20 and Matthew 19:16-21 . Jesus never taught that the Law would be nailed to the cross, even when speaking in the Gospels about the Son of Man being given over to be crucified and rise on the third day.

Paul's background was in a limited Greek version of Judaism, and he bases all his scriptural quotes on the Septuagint. Since he never met Jesus in real life, and did not study with his disciples, Paul relied on his own visions and went on missions to Asia to convert various people to his cause. His encounters with the Jerusalem Church (from which Nazarenes / Ebionites came) are described briefly in his own epistles but also in Acts. Reading Acts 21 one sees that the Jerusalem Church that Jesus set up told Paul to dispel rumors he was teaching Jews not to follow the Law, and he acquiesced. In addition they sent a letter to all Gentile believers (Acts 15) apparently telling them to follow the Noahide laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah).

I am not sure how the standard arguments for Christianity address this possibility. After all, proving that the resurrection occurred does not at all prove that Paul's claims about personal revelation and authority accurate. Mohammad makes similar claims of personal revelation. One might say that Paul is the real deal because Acts says so, but Acts was written by Luke, his student. Luke accurately describing the names of places etc. doesn't mean that his claims about Paul's miracles are actually true. In short if you look at it as a graph, it seems that Paul and Luke are completely disconnected from Jesus and his followers in authority. Except in one place, 2 Peter 3:16, where in a passage that sounds a little suspicious, Paul is endorsed and his opponents are attacked. I thought that would be strong evidence, but looking at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Epistle_of_Peter, it seems that there was always difficulty accepting this epistle and today the "vast majority of scholars consider it pseudoepigraphical."

So that kind of removes the last argument I know for the authority of Paul. Meaning, maybe Paul was the real deal and maybe not, but I don't know how to argue against the position in the link. It seems that Paul might be like Mohammad or Joseph Smith, and I don't understand the reasons for taking his writings or Luke's writings on faith, especially since his conception of Christianity contains many concepts Jesus did not teach.

closed as primarily opinion-based by curiousdannii, David Stratton Jan 1 '15 at 7:09

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Here is my problem with your question. Jesus, working from within 'orthodox Judaism' taught a easier entry to Judaism for Jews and Jews only - the word 'gentile' was used to describe a lapsed Jew. Paul working from 'Hellenic Judaism' that had their own synagogues, used the Septuagint and had a relaxed attitude towards circumcision, used the same method as Jesus and applied it to all people in keeping with the 'missionary' attitude of the Hellenists. Paul still taught conversion to Judaism, not Christianity. The first real break I can find is in the Epistle of Barnabas. Now what? – gideon marx Dec 31 '14 at 13:55
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    asking "what are the best ways..." is asking for an opinion. Please consider revising to something solid. – The Freemason Dec 31 '14 at 16:15

What are the best ways to refute the position that Paul started Christianity?

If you read the book of Acts, you get the impression that the beginning talks about the Apostles and what is happening in Jerusalem and ends with the focus on Paul and what is happening outside of Jerusalem. Many people see in this a hijack of Christianity, a diversion of Christianity, and even a repackaging of Christianity to a new market by Paul.

Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them the new covenant.

Mark 14:24 and he said to them, `This is my blood of the new covenant, which for many is being poured out;

Jesus told his disciples that they would be bringing the good news (gospel) of the Kingdom to the whole world.

Mark 16:15-18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

The original plan was for Israel to receive her King and spread the gospel over the whole earth. However unlike the first covenant when the entire nation of Israel accepted the covenant, this covenant was not received by the nation.

Paul writes that one of the reasons salvation had come to the gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy.

Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

One can also see that Paul was not instructed like the other Apostles. He himself calls himself the Apostle to the gentiles.

1 Timothy 2:7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

Paul did perform an occasional baptism (cited in the commission of Jesus to his disciples), but it was not part of what he was called to do.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Paul had every hope and expectation that his ministry would be short lived and that the Kingdom would come to Israel. We can see his expectation in his use of the word "we".

1 Thessalonians 4:17 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.

I think we can take from the words of Jesus in what is called the great commission that his kingdom was always intended to be worldwide.

Paul was called to go to the gentiles. The failure of Israel to receive the kingdom for the last 2,000 years makes the ministry of Paul seem larger. As a result, many make claims about Paul's work and motivation that are difficult to substantiate.

The book of Revelation describes a future where a faithful remnant of Israel will receive her King and the prophecies for Israel will be fulfilled.

  • OK, but if Jesus gave the great commission to all his disciples, why was only Paul doing it, and why did the Pillars of the Church act surprised and decide in the end that they'd be apostles to the Jews and Paul would be to the gentiles? It's almost as if the passage about the Great Commission was inserted later. It also contains the trinitarian formula. If that formula was so clear, why was there so much infighting among the early Church about the trinity? Ebionites as well as Docetists, Judaizers etc. were not convinced, even though Jesus directly said the words of Matthew 28? HOW? – Gregory Magarshak Dec 31 '14 at 17:39
  • @Gregory Magarshak - I do not think you could say that the Apostles were surprised or that they decided to limit their ministry to Israel. Their ministry was to be to the whole world through Israel and the kingdom. They still had an expectation that was gradually turning into just a hope that the Kingdom would still be received by Israel. Because Israel failed to receive the King and the Kingdom at that time, Christianity still progressed with mostly gentile believers until the present time. We still await the Kingdom and King. – timf Dec 31 '14 at 18:49
  • So why did Paul call himself THE apostle to the gentiles? Where were the 11? And why don't we see Peter and James setting up churches among gentiles? They seem to have figured out what gentiles should do only after Paul arrived. – Gregory Magarshak Dec 31 '14 at 19:40
  • @Gregory Magarshak - The eleven (plus Matthias) apostles to Israel were restricted to working within and through the immanent Kingdom. Since Israel had the opportunity for the Kingdom probably up to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the 12 Apostles were faithfully waiting for Israel to receive her King. Paul was called as an Apostle to the gentiles that was supposed to provoke the Jews to jealousy. Since the kingdom was not received by Israel at that time, there was no global work for Israel and the Apostles to Israel. – timf Dec 31 '14 at 20:51
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    OK. If you have a full picture of this I guess it would be good if you could answer the original question, in a separate answer. The question is basically "Why should we believe that Paul and Luke / whoever wrote Acts are completely trustworthy"? – Gregory Magarshak Dec 31 '14 at 20:53

The reasoning behind the saying that Paul began Christianity is in:

Acts 11:22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Up until this time Jesus followers were known as 'people of the way.'

Acts 19:9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.


Acts 19:23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.

  • Thanks, Bye, but how do I address the points made about Paul and what Christianity believes today? The question is this: what is the best argument that gives a good reason why we should trust the claims of Paul and Luke (or whoever wrote Acts?) I can understand the arguments for the resurrection but how does that at all show that some guy Paul or Mohammad or Joseph Smith is correct? I need some clinching argument. – Gregory Magarshak Dec 31 '14 at 17:44
  • @GregoryMagarshak Perhaps the best tack to take is not to argue the point since it is not only moot; it is also non consequential. – BYE Dec 31 '14 at 17:58
  • that is the whole purpose of my question however. It is not about the name "Christians", but more about the allegations that Paul perverted Jesus' teaching and was never really called by God to be an apostle to the gentiles. He came up with his own theology from his visions, failed to convince the Jews, and went on to launch the largest religion of all time which later oppressed the Nazarenes and Ebionites. That's what I am asking for arguments to debunk. And also about Luke or whoever wrote Acts, same thing. Why are people supposed it take it just on faith? How is that different than Muslims? – Gregory Magarshak Dec 31 '14 at 18:06
  • @GregoryMagarshak Paul spent 14 years under the tutelage of the Disciples before beginning his ministry. and Jesus said Mat_24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Mat_25:32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Mat_28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Had it not started with Paul would it happen? – BYE Dec 31 '14 at 18:22
  • Of course it would happen. Did Jesus not give the Great Commission to the eleven? Why weren't they going around doing what Paul was doing? And if they were, how come we hear so much from Paul, a man who relied on his own testimony to claim authority? Where were the other guys? And why was Paul chosen to be "THE" disciple to the gentiles? What happened to the Great Commission? – Gregory Magarshak Dec 31 '14 at 18:25

The article you cite at http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/paul/paul.htm is a poorly constructed attempt to prove a point. To counter this you need to know its weaknesses, but also its strengths.

First of all, avoid misquoting the article, as in "Paul started Christianity" - the article asserts that Paul started Christianity as we know it today, an entirely different matter. It is crystal clear that Christianity existed in Jerusalem and perhaps even Rome before Paul. Knowing exactly what is being asserted enables you to know what to assert in return.

As for Acts of the Apostles, it is the consensus of scholars that Luke the physician was not really the author. As with all four New Testament gospels, Acts was originally anonymous. It (and Luke's Gospel) was attributed to Luke later in the second century on the twin assumptions that it ought to have been written by someone who knew Paul quite well, also by a gentile, and finally by a moderately well educated person who could write in high Koine. Luke was the one person whom the Church Fathers felt fitted these criteria. In fact, Acts is now believed to have been written around the end of the first century or early in the second century. Authorship by a companion of Paul is also inconsistent with the historical and theological differences and discrepancies from Paul's letters. So, Acts of the Apostles should be set aside when determining the influence of Paul on later Christian belief. You are also right in that 2 Peter must be put aside as a second-century forgery.

Strange as it may seem, we know little about Paul's theology - his view of Christianity. He does say that the risen Jesus was seen by Cephas (Peter), then the twelve, then by more than 500, most of whom were still alive, then by James and all the apostles, and finally by himself. Christianity is based on very different accounts found in the New Testament gospels, including the obvious difference that there were at that time only eleven disciples.

Scholars do detect elements of Gnosticism in certain passages in Paul's epistles, and his statement that he never learnt the gospel from humans but by revelation is consistent with a gnostic approach. Modern Christianity is not gnostic, so whatever influence Paul had, it was not to influence Christianity towards Gnosticism.

Having said that Luke/Acts should be put aside as pseudepigraphical when considering what Paul taught, it is at the same time true that Christianity today reflects much of what we find in Luke's Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. With the possible exception of the author of Mark's Gospel, no other evangelist has has more influence on the direction of the Christian faith.

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