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Humanities LibreTexts

Apostles of Jesus

  • Page ID
    20258
  • Molly Ryan

    16 April 2019

    Paul was instrumental during the founding of Christianity. During Paul’s life, he was able to convert both the Jewish people and Gentiles into the teachings of Jesus systematically. Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ teachings is what created such widespread acceptance of Christianity. When Paul was preaching the gospel of Christ, he would still communicate with the churches he created and explain the teachings further if it was needed. Paul also confirmed the traditions the new followers of Jesus were to follow. Paul is the founder of Christianity because he is the first to make it an organized movement.

    Paul systematically went from town to town over half his life as a missionary converting both Jews and Greco-Roman Gentiles to the teachings of Christ. Everywhere Paul went he was able to establish a community of followers of Jesus. During Jesus’ ministry, Jesus would preach the gospel and not be concerned with gaining large amounts of followers. In Matthew Jesus gives a roundabout answer when asked to explain the parable of the sower, Jesus claims that not everyone is meant to go to heaven. God “will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Matthew 13: 41). Jesus’ ministry was primarily a message to the Jewish people then he is the fulfillment of their Messianic hopes because “Jesus the Messiah” is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” and as such is the fulfillment of God’s covenant to the Jewish people that the house of David will never end (Matthew 1: 1). Whereas, Paul targeted all people thought the Greco-Roman empire that were Jewish and those outside of the Jewish community with promises of salvation for all. In Paul’s letters to the Romans, Paul makes a claim that “through [Jesus] we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake” and even the early Roman Christians “are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1: 5-6). Paul’s teachings included all people in salvation, and this teaching appealed to the people of the extensive Greco-Roman empire that Jesus did not personally visit.

    Paul’s interpretation of the gospels was a significant factor that influenced people into converting. Those on the fringes of society that are unhappy with their society are those who are most likely to convert, and the ones Paul was able to convert. Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ teachings is what made Christianity appealing to the Greco-Roman Gentiles. Paul interprets Christ’s teachings of salvation to include everyone including the Gentiles. In Paul’s letter to the Romans Paul claims that God sent him out to save the Gentiles. Paul writes “the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God” (Romans 15: 15-16). Paul is essentially promising to improve the lives of Gentiles if they convert and follow the teachings of Jesus. Paul makes conversion as simple as possible to get new converts. The only thing that he makes a requirement to become a follower of Jesus is that they must believe that Jesus is the messiah. All of this led to Paul writing letters to the new Christian communities to clarify Jesus’ teachings.

    Unlike Jesus, Paul answers direct questions about the gospel and the teachings of Christ. For example, during Jesus’ ministry, he is asked to clarify his authority to teach by the chief priests and elders of the Jewish community. Instead of giving a straightforward answer Jesus responds by asking them a question in return. Jesus asks, “John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” (Matthew 21: 25). Jesus purposefully responds in parables and questions as to not give his detractors the satisfaction of being right. All of Paul’s letters to the first Christian communities mainly focused on explaining the teachings and parables of Jesus. In Paul’s letters, Paul quotes and explains the teachings of Christ and how it affects the early Christians. For example, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians Paul writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3: 13-14). In this letter, Paul explains how Jesus redeemed his people and how the Gentiles are a part of the new ministry. Then in Paul’s letters to the Romans he explains Jewish scripture and how it affects the new Christians. In Paul’s letter, he explains that “Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9: 17-18). In this letter, Paul paraphrases passages from Exodus and then explains how the new congregation is to interpret it. Paul’s interpretation of Christ teachings creates practices for Christians that are different from the Jewish community.

    Due to Paul’s teachings, early Christian traditions became sacraments. For example, the common meal shared by early Christians during their gatherings became the Eucharist. Additionally, Paul used baptism as a form of initiation to replace the old covenant of circumcision. Paul outright denies the necessity of Jewish traditions now that Jesus has established a new covenant with God’s people. This tradition he creates predates the gospel accounts and become the foundation for which some of the anti-Jewish language in the gospel stems from. Paul declares “that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all” (Galatians 5: 2). Paul’s rejection of the established Jewish traditions is what sets him apart from Jesus. Jesus observed and performed all of the Jewish traditions. By rejecting Jewish traditions, Paul created a new separate religion based off of Judaism. By changing the traditions of the Jewish community to fit the newly established congregation. Paul was able to create a new religion with different traditions that formed the foundation of Christianity.

    Without Paul Christianity as an organized religion would have never been realized. Christianity would not have been able to have consistent ubiquitous practices and traditions without Paul. The questions of the early Christians that were answered by Paul became adopted as a component of Christianity. Due to the universal nature of Paul’s interpretation of the gospels, gentiles and Jews converted to early Christianity. Paul was able to convert the Greco-Roman empire to the teachings of Jesus systematically and by extension started the first Christian congregation. Thus, due to his efforts in unifying the early church Paul is the founder of Christianity.

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