Some people believe that the Apostle Paul “hijacked” Christianity and turned it into something God never intended. How Paul, a mere human being, could have done that to God’s plan is not explained very well, but they still believe it. Some say Paul was a dupe. Others say he was a fraud. If you believe that, please read Paul – Apostle or Fraud. It should answer many of your questions about Paul and his position in the early Church.
If you wonder what the early Church thought of Paul’s writings, please read Convince Me There’s A God – The New Testament Part 7.
As for whether Paul hijacked or invented Christianity, let’s look at what Paul knew and when he knew it. If you have not read Part 1 of this series, please click here to read. You can read Part 2 by clicking here.
The Gentile Question
Many people who believe Paul changed Christianity point to differences between how Jesus and Paul looked at Gentiles.
“These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: ‘Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7
“Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.’ But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.’ But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ But He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ And she said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” Matthew 15:21-28
We also have the story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at the well.
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.” John 4:19-26
Even though Jesus demonstrated mercy toward a Gentile woman and a Samaritan woman, it appears from both His words and the actions of His disciples after Pentecost that Gentiles would be treated similarly to how they were under Mosaic Law.
People who believe Paul changed Christianity from mostly Jewish to mostly Gentile members point to the days and months following Pentecost. They say that Peter, James, John and the other preached to Jews only and they are correct –
“Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem …” Acts 2:14
“Men of Israel, hear these word …” Acts 2:22
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know …” Acts 2:36
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47
“Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?” Acts 3:12
“Rulers of the people and elders of Israel …” Acts 4:8
“And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.” Acts 5:12
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42
“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Acts 6:1 [Hellenists were Greek-speaking Jews]
“And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” Acts 7:58
Gentiles are mentioned only twice in the first seven chapters of Acts and none of them support the idea that the followers of Jesus Christ preached the Gospel to Gentiles. In fact, the two references to Gentiles present them in an unfavorable light –
“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” Acts 4:27-28
“Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob.” Acts 7:44-46
It would appear from the first several chapters about the history of the early Church that only Jews would hear the Gospel of Christ. Saul, who consented to the death of Stephen, began an all-out persecution of the followers of Jesus for the purpose of putting an end to what he and other Pharisees viewed as a rebellion against God and Judaism.
“As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” Acts 8:3
An amazing thing happened to Saul while he was traveling to Damascus, Syria to arrest followers of Jesus who had fled the persecution. Saul had letters from the high priest written to synagogue leaders of Damascus, “so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). As Saul approached Damascus a bright light shone around him from heaven and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord? Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus, who was in Heaven, told Saul to into Damascus and wait to be told what he “must do.” Saul was blinded by the light, so the men who were with him led him into the city and Saul spent the next three days without sight, “and neither ate nor drank.”
Jesus visited one of His followers in Damascus in a vision. The disciple’s name was Ananias. Jesus told Ananias to find Saul, speak to him and lay his hand on him so Saul would see again. Jesus told Ananias that Saul was “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
Many people who believe Paul changed Christianity from a primarily Jewish to primarily Gentile emphasis point to Acts 9 and say Paul made up the part about Jesus appearing to him and calling him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. They say it never happened, but there is no reason to agree with their opposition as we will see in the next part of our study.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”