Their documents are the oldest in Christianity, okay.

I half understand that the letters of the apostles who were with Jesus and who he sent to preach are taken as canonical, what I do not understand is why the teachings of Paul of Tarsus, who did not even know Jesus Christ, are canonical, and almost central to the Catholic religion.

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    They aren't just central to the Catholic religion. They are central to every mainline church in the world. Also, Paul did know Jesus. Jesus appeared to him in a vision.
    – Luke Hill
    Dec 13, 2021 at 21:59
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    Christians believe Paul did meet Jesus. And then his ministry and writings were endorsed by the other Apostles.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 13, 2021 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


the letters of the apostles who were with Jesus and who he sent to preach are taken as canonical

Yes. And these apostles convened at the apostolic council of Jerusalem, described in some detail the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, to determine whether embracing Judaism should constitute a prerequisite for becoming Christian. Their joint decision was a resounding no, and it represented a major milestone in Christian history, without which most of us today would probably not have been Christian in the first place. They then entrusted the main advocate (or lobbyist, in modern parlance) of this new perspective to announce their communal decree into all parts of the Christian world.

Paul of Tarsus, who did not even know Jesus Christ

One needn't meet Jesus in the flesh, in order to know Christ; rather, one has to become like Him, to truly know Him (Matthew 12:47-50, 25:37-46).


Prior to to the start of Jesus' ministry, God sent prophets to deliver messages to mankind. Of those prophets, only a few ever saw Jesus: Moses and Elijah (at Jesus' transfiguration), John the Baptist (whom Jesus called the greatest of the prophets), Anna and Simeon. Yet Christians still give careful thought to what the others wrote: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and the rest.

As a commenter said, Paul claimed to have seen the risen Jesus, and this was confirmed by a vision to Ananias of Damascus in Acts 9:10-16. The importance of this witness is vital. This man was fearful of Paul and knew his reputation and the purpose of his mission to Damascus - to seize Christians to be imprisoned or worse. Ananias had no motive to accept Paul and plenty of reasons to reject him. The fact that Ananias received Paul and protected him is proof of the divine approval of Paul's apostleship.

A second endorsement in Scripture comes from the Apostle Peter:

15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

Peter here elevates Paul's words to the level of Scripture. Since the Catholic Church reveres Peter as the first Pope and the one entrusted by Jesus with leadership of the church, his endorsement is also significant.

Another endorsement is that of the Holy Spirit, who uses Paul's words in the lives of believers to bring spiritual blessing. I was delivered from years of depression through the book of Philippians. Other people have their own testimonies of the power of Paul's words. Martin Luther triggered the Protestant Reformation when the truth of one verse in Romans burst upon his consciousness.

One final endorsement comes from logic. If the Bible were missing something that adding Paul's writings corrected, what might that be? There is a word of vast importance that is found sparingly throughout the Bible but commonly in Paul's letters: peace. Paul uses the word peace as much as the next two prophets combined, and as much as all the other writers of the New Testament combined:

  • Paul: 47 usages
  • Isaiah: 25 usages
  • Jeremiah / Lamentations: 17 usages
  • Rest of New Testament: 46 usages

The fact that we can find peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice upon the cross is the central message of the gospel. It shines brightest in Paul's words.

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