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Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page? Most-Commented Blog Post: #6

April 24, 2022

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #6, with 200 comments.

This one deals with one of THE most significant issues in the study of the New Testament and Early Christianity.  Maybe the single most significant.



Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page?

January 26, 2018

In response to my previous post on the importance of Paul, I have had several people ask me about the relationship between the teachings of Jesus and Paul: are they actually representing the same religion?  I dealt with that question some years ago on the blog.  Here is the first of two posts on the issue.


I have spent several posts explicating Paul’s understanding of his gospel, that by Christ’s death and resurrection a person is put into a restored relationship with God. He had several ways of explaining how it worked. But in all of these ways, it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that mattered. It was not keeping the Jewish law. It was not knowing or following Jesus’ teaching. It was not Jesus’ miracles. It was not … anything else. It was Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I then summarized in my previous post, the teaching of Jesus himself, about the coming Son of Man and the need to prepare by keeping the Law of God, as revealed in the Torah, as summarized in the commandments to love God above all else and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Do these represent the same religion?

I see this as one of the most fundamental and important questions in all of early Christianity. I’m not asking if Paul invented Christianity: he inherited his understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus from those who came before him, even if he understood its significance for Gentiles differently from his predecessors. But I am asking if the gospel that Paul preached is essentially the same or different from the message of Jesus. A very good case can be made, of course, that they are fundamentally different.

The way I used to try to get to this in my undergraduate class was by having my students write a short paper with the following instructions.

First, I had them read and analyze the famous story of the so-called “Rich Young Ruler” as found, for example, in Matthew 19:16-22.   (I say so-called because in Matthew of the Gospels he is young – though definitely not in Mark  – and in only one of the Gospels — Luke – is he said to be a ruler.)   In Matthew’s version, the man comes up to Jesus and asks him “what good deed must I do to inherit eternal life.”   Jesus answers swiftly and directly “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”   The man asks which ones, and Jesus lists some of the Ten Commandments, along with the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.  The man claims he has indeed kept these.   Jesus then tells him that if he wants to be perfect, he needs to sell everything he owns and give the money away to the poor, “and you will have treasure in heaven.  And then come, follow me.”It is important to notice what Jesus’ response is to how to have eternal life.  You have to keep the laws God laid out in the Torah.  And if you want to have treasures in heaven, you are to do even more than that – you are to give love *totally* to your (poor) neighbor.   That’s how one earns salvation.

So, I have my students summarize and discuss that passage.   And then I give them a thought experiment:  suppose that twenty years later the *same* man, now in middle age, comes up to the apostle Paul, and asks him “what must I do in order to inherit eternal life?”   What does Paul say in response?  Does he say, “Keep the commandments”?  Or “follow the Torah”?  Or, “give away everything you own and you will have treasures in heaven”?

Or does he say something completely different?  The answer, of course, is that Paul says something completely different.   Paul does not tell the person to follow the Law of God.  He tells him to “believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and be baptized.”

Is that the same thing?   My students often simply never saw the difference, which I found rather amazing.  My more thoughtful students would argue two points to say that basically the messages of Jesus and Paul were the same thing, not different.   First, some would point out that Jesus *did* say “come, follow me” – and that’s comparable (they argued) to Paul saying “believe in Christ.”  In my view it’s not the same.   Jesus indicates that the man will have treasure in heaven by giving everything away, not by following him (note: he says “follow me” only after he says the man will have treasure by doing the law and giving away his goods).

Second, some would argue that Jesus could not very well tell someone to believe in his death and resurrection before he died, so he was speaking to the situation *before* his death, whereas Paul was speaking to the situation *after* his death.   That’s a clever solution, but it doesn’t work for Paul, I think.  And that’s because Paul insists that if a person could be made right with God by keeping God’s laws, then there would have been no reason for Christ to have died (as he explicitly states in Gal. 2:21).  And there’s a real logic in that.  If Jesus really thought that a person could have eternal life by following the law and could have treasures in heaven by giving away all his property, why would *he* think it was necessary for him to die?  People could just be law-abiding Jews, and that would be more than enough.

I do see some continuities between what Jesus had to say and what Paul had to say (about which I’ll say some things in my next post), but at the end of the day, it sure seems to me that they had different understandings of “salvation.”   Jesus had an urgent message to deliver about the coming kingdom of God to be brought by the Son of Man for those who were obedient to God; and Paul had an urgent message to deliver about the return of Jesus for the “saved” – those who believed in Christ’s death and resurrection.

2022-04-11T09:47:38-04:00April 24th, 2022|Public Forum|

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  1. brenmcg April 24, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    The young man in the story walks away sad. But why? He has kept all the commandments that Jesus said to and would enter life?

    Its because in order to gain eternal life he must give up all his earthly possessions and follow Jesus. That’s the point of the story. Its difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. If all he had to do was follow the commandments which he had always kept then entering the kingdom would be easy for him and he should walk away happy.

    • Tomaha April 30, 2022 at 7:42 pm

      But if he obviously kept all the commandments (not just the “Ten” but the love thy neighbor as thyself part) he wouldn’t be *rich* would he? And what about his family, his possible wife and children? Just trust in the Lord? Do they have a say in all this? One would have to have “faith” it would all work out. Where does this “faith” come from? The owner of the great casino in the sky that hands out the get out of jail cards. That “card” is what Paul is talking about. And if you had “faith” the Son of Man was going to come in your generation’s lifetime, the decision would have seemed a wise one, or at least an easier one to make.

      • BDEhrman May 2, 2022 at 12:31 pm

        He might be one of the peopel in a shack in heaven? Jesus doesn’t say. And wife and kids? He doesn’t say anything ab out them either!

  2. Stephen April 24, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    Prof Ehrman your discussion is mostly framed from a post-Easter perspective of course. I’ve always assumed that Paul probably had much of his apocalypticism shaped before his conversion and retained it afterwards so my question would be, “If Jesus and Paul met as two apocalyptic Jews before Jesus’ death how well would they have gotten on?”

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:37 pm

      My guess is yes in some ways. Except Paul was a Pharisee and Jesus does not appear to have done to well with them as a rule.

  3. WM April 24, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    What do you think of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem
    Every year

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:40 pm

      I’m afraid I’m not familiar with it.

  4. fragmentp52 April 25, 2022 at 5:37 am

    Hello Bart. May I ask an off topic question ? I’m wondering if you have any opinions on a book called The Message by Eugene Peterson ?

    Thank you.

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 3:50 pm

      Sorry, I don’t know it.

      • fragmentp52 April 28, 2022 at 12:18 am

        It’s a “rendering” of the Bible trying to use modern American? English idioms to make it more contemporary and easy to understand. It sold 20 million copies according to the Washington Post in 2018. Bono from U2 is a big fan. You can see a few examples of his “renderings” on his Wikipedia page.

    • RuthieL April 27, 2022 at 8:17 pm

      I will always have a soft spot for the Message translation (paraphrase) of the Bible. When it came out it made a big impression on me, really extended my interest in personal bible reading more than would have happened otherwise.

      More conservative Christians tend to not like the Message because it does try to “soften” things up a bit. But of course that’s part of why I like it. 😉

      • fragmentp52 April 28, 2022 at 6:49 pm

        Thanks for that comment. I enjoy reading other people’s opinions.

        I’ve not read it myself, but the few excerpts available online feel a little jarring to me for some reason.

        I think of Peterson as a soft, mild mannered fundamentalist. He’s obviously not fire and brimstone, but I was disappointed in his stance on homosexuality and same sex marriage, and I was disappointed (although admittedly, not surprised) that he “affirms a biblical view of everything.”

  5. JesusChristDivided April 25, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    Paul was at odds with the Synoptic Gospels, but his preaching closely resembled the Gospel of John. Jesus taught differently after the Crucifixion through his apostles, whether you think he survived or not. It was not necessary that Jesus survive the Crucifixion, since he was already a myth, but he did survive. Paul preached the teachings of Jesus Christ after the Resurrection; he does not seem to acknowledge at all the importance of Jesus’ teaching before the Crucifixion, which he probably believed was the same. The teaching changed dramatically after the Resurrection, emphasizing the divinity of Christ, creating greater conflicts with Pharisees and Sadducees and resulting persecutions of the Nazarenes. Paul took part in those until his revelation, and then, after a sojourn to Arabia, he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  6. JoshuaBakradze April 25, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    Bart, can you list how many languages you speak in or maybe read in but not speak? Thanks

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 4:05 pm

      Ha! Well, I can tell you how many at one time I learned to read. I’ve never spoken anything but English. And a number of the languages I learned years ago (Syriac) I can’t read now and would need some serious work to catch up on. Modern languages I still read French and German and a bit of Italian (used to read a lot more!); ancient, Greek and Latin. My Hebrew used to be OK. And my Coptic, OK but not great. Syriac, OK and now virtually non-existent. None of them is great, frankly. I read more Greek than anything — every morning I spend about an hour reading Homer. FANTASTIC! (I had to learn Homeric Greek since it’s different from the Koine Greek I’ve spend most of my life working on.

      • AngeloB April 28, 2022 at 12:03 am

        I can speak basic Modern Greek!

  7. brickleytre April 25, 2022 at 6:52 pm

    This issue has been on my mind a lot lately and has caused me to question the coherence of the NT as a whole.

  8. seahawk41 April 25, 2022 at 8:26 pm

    I have a question related indirectly to this post. Yesterday the choir at my church sang a piece based on the Beatitudes. One section focuses on the line “for great is they reward in heaven”. I think that is from Matthew 5, but Luke has similar wording. I’ve been turning this over in my mind wondering what “reward in heaven” meant in 29 or 30 CE. If I recall your argument in Heaven and Hell, people in Jesus’ day didn’t think of the good going to heaven and the evil to hell. Am I recalling things incorrectly? If not, what is your take on what this phrase about reward in heaven meant? And of course, in your post you mention Jesus telling the young man that he would have treasures in heaven. This is the same concept, I think, so if it doesn’t mean what I was taught growing up in an evangelical church, then what does it mean?

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 4:09 pm

      The first thing is to differentiate what Jesus himself might have meant from what the later Christains did. Jesus himself spoke of the Kingdom of God, which could also be called the Kingdom of Heaven, which meant the future utopian world here on earth after the resurrectoin of the dead occurred. Rewards in heaven is just another way of saying rewards in the world to come. ONly later did that come to mean something like “treasures you will have when your soul goes live with God in heaven.” Make sense?

      • seahawk41 April 26, 2022 at 4:46 pm

        Yes, that makes sense. In fact, my own thinking was headed in that direction.

  9. jayakron April 25, 2022 at 11:48 pm

    Was Jesus presenting an all-or-nothing, ticket punch choice to the man? Reading Matthew 19 I’m not sure. Jesus first tells him that keeping the commandments is sufficient for “life,” so I’d presume that settles the issue. But the man replies that despite having kept the law, he feels something is lacking. One might expect Jesus to then say “hey, I said the law is sufficient, so trust me on that and don’t worry about it not being enough.” But instead, Jesus acknowledges the man’s apparent experiential lack of satisfaction with just keeping the law. Jesus offers that if the guy wants to be “perfect” (ie really making a bold offering to God) then there’s a 2nd, advanced option he can take: give away all his possessions and physically follow Jesus.

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2022 at 4:10 pm

      YEs, my sense is that to have eternal life he needed to be obedient to God’s commandments; if he wanted to kick it up a notch to be “perfect” and have real treasures in heaven, he would need to sell everything and give to the poor.

  10. RICHWEN90 April 26, 2022 at 8:38 am

    So, if we abandon our families and friends and turn ourselves into homeless people, but not even homeless people pushing shopping carts piled with clothing items and what not, we become “perfect”. That seems to apply to everyone, not only the “rich”. And of course, we must follow the cult leader. Follow how? He’s dead. If “follow” meant (to Jesus) keeping the law, Paul is full of it. And in what sense is believing in a death and resurrection morally efficacious? What acts follow from that belief? I guess that question makes no sense because acts, moral or otherwise, should mean nothing. In what sense is a belief an action? In no sense. Paul seems to have created a vacuum. But wait, Paul condemns certain actions! He makes that clear in his epistles. But, but, but… if belief is the be all and end all, why condemn or condone ANY action??

  11. lonepapa07 April 26, 2022 at 10:06 am

    I’ve heard it explained that when JC tells him to give away all his goods, JC is getting to his root sin: covetousness. The rich young ruler says he has kept the law, but JC pinpoints that he has not since
    he is not willing to give away everything. Thus, he walks away saddened.

    But this still begs the question, what if he had given it all away and followed? Would he then warrant
    eternal life without a death and resurrection? Still appears to be a different gospel.

  12. Em.Freedman April 26, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Hi Dr Ehrman!

    Where could I find a recording of your lecture on homosexuality and the Bible?

    Thank you!!

    • BDEhrman April 28, 2022 at 5:34 pm

      It’s in queue to be posted next week.

  13. Ebion April 26, 2022 at 10:47 am

    “…and you will have treasure in heaven.”

    Question 1: What kind of “treasure” does Jesus or, more accurately, the author of the Gospel according to Matthew have in mind?

    Question 2: By “heaven”, does the author mean the “kingdom of God on Earth” or the “kingdom of God in the sky”?

    • BDEhrman April 28, 2022 at 5:35 pm

      1. Jesus himself meant spiritual treasure, a closeness with God and others, not cold hard cash; 2. Jesus would have meant in the coming kingdom of heaven; it’s hard to know if Matthew was already thinking of a place up where God lives or not.

  14. joks April 26, 2022 at 1:03 pm

    Dr Ehrman,

    What book and verse(s) do you have your students read to get the clearest picture of Paul’s thinking on salvation?

  15. tom.hennell April 27, 2022 at 6:46 am

    “Paul does not tell the person to follow the Law of God. He tells him to “believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and be baptized.”

    Not sure you are fully expressing Paul’s likely response there, Bart.

    I am thinking of Galatians 5:3. “Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.” Since the rich young ruler must have been a circumcised Jew, then Paul would undoubtedly have advised him (on the basis of this teaching directed to the non-Jewish Galatians) that he must continue to obey the entire law in all respects. Just as Paul, himself a circumcised Jew, continued to do (as he understood it)

    With the vital qualification that Paul considers belief in Jesus as the dying and risen Messiah to be as much a requirement of the Law of God for circumcised Jews as all other prescriptions of the Torah.

    Nor does Paul’s teaching that the Galatians, and other non-Jews, should “believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and be baptized.” imply that they can disregard the Law of God; as for example in being required to “abstain from idols”.

  16. danmih April 28, 2022 at 3:47 am


    I’d really like to ask dr. Ehrman if he could address the issue of the Last Supper for me. Particularly I am very interested to find out how much is Roman-Catholic Church on the same feet in their understanding of the Eucharist as being both the real body and blood of Jesus and then their idea that it is a re-presentation of the sacrifice (the sacerdotal understanding that the priest does there something special) with the historical Gospels?
    Meaning if we are to look at Luke 22:19 are we to understand the “do” (poieo) as “offer” or “sacrifice”? (cf. Strong 4160 poieo, also cf. Exod. 29:38, Greek Septuagint)?
    Or are the Protestants more in line with the Gospel understanding and historical understanding in their emphasis on being just a communal meal?
    I know it used to be more of a communal meal from both Tertullian and Justin Martyr (cf. The First Apology, ch. 65-66), but Justin also mentions there the Eucharist as being a special meal, having the true blood and body present.
    Sorry for long post, I’m all eyes and ears!

    • BDEhrman April 28, 2022 at 6:23 pm

      I don’t have an opinion about who is religiously/theologically right or wrong in their commemorations of teh Last Supper (Protestants or Catholics), but historically I do not think the meal was understood sacramentally until long after the Gospels were weritten and even longer after the event itself, assuming there was an event.

      • danmih April 28, 2022 at 7:01 pm

        I see, thank you!
        So then any thoughts of what the Didache meant by sacrifice? Chapt 14:
        “But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”

        • BDEhrman April 30, 2022 at 1:32 pm

          If it refers to the breaking of bread itself as a “sacrifice” then it would be the earliest reference to teh sacrificial character of the meal itself; that may be right, and it is difficult with modern eyes not to see it that way. A number of scholars argue that it refers to the giving of thanks, since the point is that one has to confess ones sins BEFORE giving thanks, so that it will be “pure.” In that sense the thanksgiving to Christ for what he did is an “offering” (of thanks). I’m not completely sure what I think about it.

          • danmih April 30, 2022 at 3:15 pm

            Thank you, once more.
            Basically, (I don’t mean to put you in a boat) that would be similar to the Lutheran position, that it is a spiritual sacrifice, that is, as you say a sacrifice of thanks, hence the name, Eucharist (thanks giving). But yes, it could also be more than just that… as the Catholics say.
            Maybe Chapter 9. The Thanksgiving (Eucharist) can shed some light?
            Any ways, my last comment here, what additional readings would you recommend about understanding the Lord’s Supper in the primitive church?

          • BDEhrman May 2, 2022 at 12:30 pm

            THese are two highly reputable scholars on the question! Dennis Smith: From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World; and Andrew McGowen Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford Early Christian Studies).

  17. jbhodge April 29, 2022 at 5:46 pm

    The Gospels contain the teachings of Jesus to the “Jews”. Jesus tells the “Jews” to follow him i.e accept him as the Messiah. The Jews must acknowlege Jesus as the Messiah to understand the close of the Covenant given to Moses. As far as what in ones “life” that Jesus will Judge.. look to the parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). This is the criteria of “Love” (Goodness) that Jesus says he will Judge who enters into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now refer to Romans 2 and see Pauls explicit message on the Judgement in Romans 2:7-8 (Goodness vs Evil).

    Jesus was telling the “Jews” to continue a life much outlined by the Torah and Paul was telling the Gentiles that the “Law” is that of “Persistance of doing Good”.. Jesus told the Jews “I am the Way, Truth and Light” as the Path to eternal life. Paul tells the Gentiles, that Jesus creates the “path” to eternal life.

    The average Gentile would have no knowedge of the contents of the Torah, thus commandments of Torah have no meaning to a Gentile.

    Both are giving the same Gospel, but in 2 different ways for 2 different audiences.

  18. jbhodge April 29, 2022 at 6:48 pm

    Bart. You state that you believe Jesus and Paul spoke to an “Earthly Kingdom” and in the “Physical Body”. That is what a large percentage of evangelicals believe since Kingdom Theology was (Now/Age to Come) created by George Eldon Ladd at Fuller Theological Seminary in the 50’s and gave a theological bases for Hal Lindsay in his book “The Late Great Planet Earth” as a future age for the Physical Earth.

    The whole root of such Physical Return to Earth and Earthly Kingdom, hedges upon the statements in the Gospels (and Revelation) of Jesus returning in/on the Clouds. But what is totally ignored, is what “in the clouds” represented to the Jews. Such “Clouds” are most often deplicted as hiding or obscurring God from direct view. In other words God is present and felt, but not seen. I believe this is the understanding that Jesus was conveying. It is surly the outcome since the “soon” that bookends Revelation and the Generation that would not past, has surly passed away (unless you subscribe to Present/Age to come theology).

    The New Covenant inclusive of the Gentiles ruled by Jesus was the 2nd coming. This most likely came on Day of Penticost.

    • BDEhrman April 30, 2022 at 1:46 pm

      I’d say that’s a theological view, so I’m not qualified to assess it. But I will say the physical return of Jesus to earth was not created by Ladd. It was the widely held view in earliest Christianity. As to Lindsay, etc., I deal with all that in my forthcoming book on Revelation.

  19. altruitypublicationsllc May 15, 2022 at 11:54 am

    No. Paul and Jesus are not on the same page, or perhaps even in the same book. Jesus’ ministry was focused on the relief of suffering and injustice, Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 5:3-12. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord. Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father”, Mark 3:35. Doing the will of the father involves faith-based works.

    Paul’s path to salvation is different and inconsistent with Jesus’ path. Paul’s path is based on belief in Jesus taking on our sins, suffering and dying for the forgiveness of our sins. The Reformation deviated further from Jesus’ path by mistaking the corruption of the sale of indulgences as works, and abolishing the need works, in favor of the nebulous concept of justification by faith alone.

    Paul already believed in the resurrection of the body as a Pharisee, even before Jesus, Act 23:6-11. Further, many persons found favor with God, even before Jesus. If Jesus earned eternal life, it was because of his exemplary life and devotion to God, not because Adam ate forbidden fruit.

  20. hsourceofthebible May 16, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Bart,

    This particular discussion of Jesus and Paul is actually central to the Christian debate. Paul is said to state that he got his Christianity from the Risen Christ.(I always thought). But what seems startling is the assertions that “Nazareth was a place with about 50 houses.” Ok. Now does the genuine Paul not mention it? (I assume the answer is no he does not). But Mark who you feel is not a Jew mentions it. I listened carefully to your debate with Dr. Price where you discussed the Baptism and questioned the reference to Zoroaster’s Baptism which the Markian Gospel begins with. One point that was left out in the parallel is the “leather belt” worn by John over and above his Vohu Mana parallel. This is Iranian. As are the Maji, and Messianic birth story(lest we forget, the only prior Messiah coeval with Isaiah was Kurusha(Cyrus)). So, a Pharisaic Jesus with a Pharisaic John,a Persian Baptist, is of course possible. Isaiah is redacted across 2 centuries.
    There must have been large numbers of Mithraic followers from the times of Mithradates. Complex syncretism can’t be ruled out. Do neither Paul nor Mark point to a theologically Jewish Christ doctrine!

  21. hsourceofthebible May 17, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Hi Bart,
    Further the name Zoroaster is related to camels.
    “In Avestan, Zaraϑuštra is generally accepted to derive from an Old Iranian *Zaratuštra-; The element half of the name (-uštra-) is thought to be the Indo-Iranian root for “camel”, with the entire name meaning “he who can manage camels”.
    We also see the importance of the belt discussed here. Also Vohu Mana is said to “preside over domestic animals”.
    Maybe Mark left this reference to reflect a certain heritage for John the Baptist.

  22. Dr Doolittle December 20, 2023 at 4:45 am

    In regard to the qustion of whether Paul and Jesus are on the same page, if one does not believe that Paul’s so-called revelation of the Gospel of the Risen Christ had a divine origin, then I believe one must conclude that it arose from his vivid imagination. I don’t believe that his POV about the Risen Christ has much at all to do with the apocalytic preacher from rural Galilee.

    How then are we to understand where Paul got his gospel or if he patched together a bunch of elements from what he’d heard about Jesus, mystery religions, Judaism, existing gnosticism, etc.? I’ve read several of your (excellent) books on early Chistianity(ies), and other authors specifically on this question about Paul, but am not aware if you’ve addressed it or not. I’m new to the blog so, if you’ve spoken or written extensively about Paul and the origin of his message, please direct me to your comments.

    • BDEhrman December 21, 2023 at 10:35 am

      I discuss Paul’s vision/conversion in several places: in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdelene, and in a chapter of my book The Triumph of Christianity. My view is that Paul believed he saw Jesus alive, while persecuting his followers three years or so after the resurretion. Since at that point he “knew” that Jesus was not dead, he concluded God had raised him from the dead, and from there he reasoned backward to conclude that God must have had a reason/a plan for having Jesus’ killed in the first place, and concluded that the messiah had to die as an atonement for sins, a view the disciples htemselves had reached earlier, on their own. Now the view wsa confirmed to Paul. But he also “realized” what htey didn’t that this means salvatpin comes only by the death of Jesus, not be keeping the Jewish law; hence his mission to convert gentiles.

  23. Dr Doolittle December 21, 2023 at 12:35 pm

    There are, as you well know, many allegations made against Paul by various authors, everything from his being a Roman secret agent, to being the “Liar” and the enemy of Jesus’ brother James, the Righteous Teacher of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pauline Christianity, which is what most people simply call Christianity, does really appear to be something that came from his mind and was at odds with what the other apostles believed. I think most Christians would be shocked to discover that what they believe is Paul’s construct based on his so-called revelation and not on the life of Jesus.

    Since Paul’s gospel of atonement by Christ appears to be so fundamentally different from the message of Jesus and the message of James, how are we to make sense of the elements of it? Did he make it up “out of whole cloth,” ( A reference to tailors who would falsely advertise garments being made “out of whole cloth,” when, in reality, they were pieced together from different cuts.) In other words, did he patch it together with pieces from other cultures, religions, etc.? Can you throw some more light on this ?

    • BDEhrman December 26, 2023 at 9:00 am

      Paul himself persecuted Christians for claiming that Jesus was a messiah who had been crucified, so I don’t think he could have made that part up. It was almost certainly what he was opposed to before he converted. What he came up with that was distinct was the idea that if Jesus’ death is what brings about a right standing with God, then keeping the law has no role in salvation. That’s why he undertook a mission to gentiles. He saw that as the inevitable conclusion of the resurrection. (God favord Jesus obvioulsy by raising him from the dead; but that would mean he favored him before his death; and that would mean his death was part of God’s plan; and the logical “plan” would be to use the death of an innocent one for th esins of others). I talk about this at greater length in my chapter on Paul in The Triumoph of Christianity.

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