I’d like to say a bit more about Paul in relationship to the beginning of Christianity. Yesterday I argued that Paul could not have invented the idea of the resurrection. I should point out that Paul himself – who was always proud of the “revelation” of the truth given to him and his part in disseminating it (see Galatians 1-2) – admits in 1 Cor. 15:3-5 that he “received” from others the view that Christ died for sins and rose from the dead, before appearing “first” to Cephas and then others. I should stress, this language of “receiving” and “passing on” has long been understood as a standard way of indicating how tradition was transmitted from one person to another. Paul did not “receive” this information from his visionary encounter with Jesus (Jesus didn’t tell him: first I appeared to Cephas then to… and then to… and then finally to you!). Paul received this core of the Gospel message from those who were Christians before him.

People today often think of Paul as the second-founder of Christianity, after Jesus. Or even as the founder of Christianity. In my view that is assigning way too much importance to Paul. I don’t know how much Paul himself came up with (based, in his view, on his encounter with Jesus). But he did *not* come up with the idea that Jesus’ death brought salvation and that he had then been raised from the dead. That part he “received” from others.

 

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