Question of the week: Who was in charge of the Christian movement before Paul?
The short answer: James (Jesus’ brother) and Peter. But there’s a little more to it than that.
- First, some important dates. Paul had his conversion experience around 35 CE. He was likely in his late 20s at that time. But he did not officially meet the boys in Jerusalem for 15 years after that, around 50 CE. That’s a pretty long time to go before meeting your boss.
- Why so long and why the meeting? Let’s just say Paul was going a little rogue on things. The conservative group in Jerusalem (led by James and Peter) followed Jesus’ teachings, but remained within the Jewish tradition. But Paul had his own version of the gospel that did not require strict adherence to Jewish laws. And he preached to those ne’er-do-wells — the Gentiles. Paul’s message is focused on the resurrection. He says nothing in any of his writings about the birth, life, or general teachings of Jesus.
- So Paul was essentially called on the carpet? Pretty much. And things did not go well. The book of Acts makes it seem like they all had a meeting of the minds in 50 CE. But Acts was written almost 50 years after those events took place. Plus, in Paul’s letters he repeatedly says things about ‘the pillars’ in Jerusalem that indicate there was a major rift between the two.
Next week: Why did the Christian movement essentially embrace Paul and not James and Peter?