- Before Paul, early ‘Christianity’ was pretty much an offshoot of traditional Jewish practices, complete with circumcision requirements and dietary laws. These small groups added an apocalyptic twist by insisting that a man named Yeshua (i.e. Jesus) had died and come back to life. And then came Paul, a tent-maker from Syria who began telling people (very insistently at times) that he had seen the risen Jesus in a vision.
- Paul expanded the appeal by reinventing Christianity around a theology based on faith rather than through good Jewish works. This was excellent marketing, because it expanded Christianity into an international religion. Paul probably already had a bias toward mixing of various religious sects, because he came from Syria, which was much more cosmopolitan in allowing both Jews and Gentiles to worship under the same roof.
- The key event that sealed the deal for Paul’s version of Christianity was when the Temple was destroyed around 70 CE. At that point the identity of the Jewish Christian churches disappeared. This left only Paul’s churches outside of Jerusalem to carry on the Christian religion. And since the winners write the history, this explains why we don’t hear much about the non-Paul leaders in the early Christian development.
Fun fact: Paul never quotes Jesus.
Interesting Speculation: Was Paul’s vision some kind of epileptic seizure caused by little sleep, frequent danger, and stress? And did it result in damaged eyesight, that might be indicated by Paul himself in Galatians 6:11, “SEE WHAT LARGE LETTERS I WRITE WITH MY OWN HAND.”
Editor note: Much of today’s post comes from Neil Carter’s blog entitled Godless in Dixie.