Two figures dominate the New Testament, Jesus and Paul. Jesus was a carpenter from Galilee who became a charismatic preacher of the arrival of God’s kingdom, performing many miracles. Paul on the other hand was an intellectual, born in Tarsus in Cilicia who received the best education possible, learning his craft from one of the most noted rabbis in history. Did this two dominant figures ever meet?
The New Testament accounts would suggest that Jesus and Paul never met in Jesus’ lifetime, but they met after Jesus rose from the dead. Paul is extremely silent about witnessing any of Jesus’ miraculous acts but was very much vocal about His Damascus road experience where He met the resurrected Jesus while He was on His way to persecute the church. This was the turning point in Paul’s life and some have argued that this was the turning point in the simplicity of the Christian message, furthermore that Paul was the person who ruined the good news of Jesus the saviour.
Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby in His book The Mythmaker: Paul and the invention of Christianity, Maccoby calls Paul “an adventurer” and “the greatest fantasist of all” who founded Christianity as we know it today. Some Muslims would adhere to this theory, arguing that Paul has somehow corrupted the teachings of Jesus. Within some Christian circles, especially some that I have spoken to, would like to erase some of Paul’s words from the New Testament, finding Him difficult and dogmatic, and un-like Jesus in some of his teachings on sex, women and slaves.
Did Paul preach a different message to Jesus or was Paul a faithful follower of the Person whom He claimed was His master and Lord?
David Wenham in his book Paul: Follower of Jesus or founder of Christianity deals with this issue thoroughly devoting five chapters to an examination of the teaching of Jesus and Paul. Wenham considers two important questions, namely, (a) Is Paul dependant on the teaching and traditions of Jesus, directly or indirectly? (b) And is Paul’s theological understanding and emphasis similar or dissimilar to that of Jesus? David Wenham concludes after giving an overall view on the question of Paul’s relationship to Jesus, that Paul himself would have been horrified at the suggestion that he was the founder of Christianity. For Paul, the fountain of theology was Jesus: first, the Jesus whom he met on the Damascus road; second, the Jesus of the tradition, namely the Jesus as witnessed by the twelve disciples. Paul saw himself as the slave of Jesus Christ nor its founder. Paul even said that He received his gospel not from any man but from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12). Paul’s Christianity was a submission to its founder, namely Jesus Christ.
What are your opinions on Paul? Do you consider all of his teachings to be approved by Jesus Himself, or do you think that there are some points where Jesus himself would chastise Paul for marring his simplicity?
Whatever your answer to this question is, will be determined by your view of scripture, whether you believe that Paul was divinely inspired or not. Or perhaps Paul was only inspired in those aspects which you believe correlates to the teachings of Jesus.
For a more detailed analysis, read David Wenham’s book. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Follower-Jesus-Founder-Christianity/dp/0802801242