There is little doubt that Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle, was a defining force in the spread of Christianity. And the spread away from a cult on the side of Judaism, to being a significant movement amongst the Greeks and then the Romans.
However, I’ve been rebuilding my own faith and one of the obvious casualties is examining where Jesus stops and where Paul starts.
It’s not terribly pretty.
Somewhat oddly, Paul is far more thoroughly steeped in the Jewish tradition than Jesus was. After all, Paul was the son of a rabbi whilst Jesus was the son of a builder*. Paul was an intellectual (even as he was a tent-maker by profession) whereas Jesus was common as muck. This meant Paul was much better at leveraging the Jewish state-of-being in his arguments, quite apart from the fact Jesus didn’t spend time penning letters! You can see this in the first few chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I’m a little surprised at myself for not identifying with the wordsmith Paul, to be honest. But that’s what happens when you dissect someone’s teachings. I respect what he did, but I can’t completely agree with it.
Basically, I want a Jesus and a Christianity that is mystical, that takes its place in the spiritual world alongside all the other things. And doesn’t have Paul driving the bus.
* The Bible often calls him a “carpenter” but that’s incorrect. What such people did back then was build houses. I have Nick Page, author of The Wrong Messiah to thank for this piece of information.