Paul the Apostle

From Religions Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
Paul the Apostle, mosaic from the end of 5th Century
God converts Paul, a non believer, using a divine revelation. Acts 9:3-9 Bible-icon.png Why God chooses not to reveal himself to other non-believers is difficult to explain.

Paul the Apostle, generally refers to Saint Paul, also called Paul of Tarsus or Saul of Tarsus. Paul is perhaps the most significant figure in the early church. It is arguable that Christianity largely originates from Paul's interpretation of Jesus. [1]

There is no historical evidence of Paul ever existing, except for the account given in the Bible. According to tradition and the Acts of the Apostles he persecuted the Christians but experienced a vision or hallucination on the road to Damascus. After that he converted to Christianity. He never met Jesus in person. Paul became a Christian missionary and wrote many epistles included in the New Testament. However, it is likely that Paul did not write all the epistles attributed to him. [2]


Paul often says he received his understanding of Christianity directly from God 1 Corinthians 11:23 Bible-icon.png by revelation Galatians 1:11-16 Bible-icon.png 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 Bible-icon.png. Paul even reveals to us that the earliest Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis, entering ecstatic trances, prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues--so much, in fact, that outsiders thought they were lunatics (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14 Bible-icon.png). The problem is it is all to easy to pretend to have had a vision.

A small minority of people around the world have religious visions and the information they receive is generally contradictory. Most are probably hallucinations and incorrect. We can't distinguish Paul's vision from the thousands of other contradictory visions.[3]

"His account of Jesus, passed on to him by eyewitness disciples, were the first to be written down.[4]"

Paul explicitly claims he did not receive his knowledge of Jesus from other people. However, assuming Paul did not really have visions, he probably did get information from other early Christians about basic doctrine.

Differences with the teachings of Jesus[edit]

Main Article: Differences between the Gospels and the epistles

Paul's interpretation of Jesus's live is very influential but Paul's teachings possibly conflict with, are fundamentally different to [5], or even corrupt the teachings of Jesus. Although the teachings of Paul are accepted by most Christians, Paul has been subjected to severe criticism by a minority of Christians who accept the gospels but reject the rest of the New Testament.

"Paul was the [...] first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus"

Thomas Jefferson [10]

It is difficult to argue that Paul corrupted the teachings of Jesus when his accounts were written decades before the Gospels. Also, the Gospels were clearly written as scripture, not history, based on their style and content. This means the Gospels are less reliable historically than the epistles.

The Bauer thesis is the idea that a diversity of views existed in early Christianity. This collection of views was replaced by an orthodoxy of belief in Jesus as god, and a theology in agreement with Paul the Apostle. The consequence is that the interpretation of Jesus that prevailed in Christianity is largely arbitrary. While this view is popular, it has been sharply criticised by many historians.

Historians such as Richard Carrier argue that the epistles better represent early Christianity, and the Gospels were later additions that modified the original message.

Most Christian apologists argue that the Gospels and epistles of Paul are entirely consistent but serve different purposes.

"Lastly, it’s worth considering why the gospels and Paul’s letters seem different (not in the sense of teaching different, contradictory things though). They’re different simply because they’re doing different things.[6]"

Alleged change of name[edit]

"Many mistakenly assume the Lord changed Saul's name to Paul sometime after Saul converted from Judaism to Christianity, which happened during his encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). [...] The Hebrew name given him by his parents was Saul, but, because his father was a Roman citizen (and therefore Saul inherited Roman citizenship), Saul also had the Latin name Paul (Acts 16:37, 22:25-28), the custom of dual names being common in those days. Since he grew up in a strict Pharisee environment, the name Saul was by far the more appropriate name to go by.[7]"

Paul the Mythicist?[edit]

Main Article: Jesus began as a myth and was later historicized

Paul hardly mentions any biographical events of Jesus. Richard Carrier and others argue that even the few mentions are later insertions. It is therefore possible that Paul considered Jesus to be entirely spiritual and never had an earthly ministry.

"Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. [8]"

Paul makes no mention of the empty tomb. Having visions seem to be commonplace in the early church, based on Acts 2:4, 7:56, 16:9-10 Bible-icon.png, and early followers might only have had knowledge of the resurrection from revelation.


Paul is thought to have authored the following chapters:

The other chapters are thought to be pseudepigraphical (falsely attributed) by many or most scholars: [9]


Paul was influential in many areas of Christian thought, including:


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. Richard Carrier, [3]
  4. [4]
  5. [5]
  6. [6]
  7. [7]
  8. [8]
  9. [9]

External links[edit]