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Was Paul the Founder of Christianity?

It is often claimed that the Founder of Christianity was the apostle Paul – or at least that he was the co-Founder, along with Jesus.

The idea behind this claim is that Christianity is not really about the historical Jesus.

Yes, his words are hugely important, and yes it is also important to know that he did all those miraculous deeds.   But his public ministry is not the core of Christian belief.  Instead, the core of Christianity is the belief in his death and resurrection.

And this is what Paul preached, not what Jesus preached. 

So that even if Jesus’ life and teachings are important, they are not really what Christianity is about.  Christianity is about believing in his death and resurrection for salvation.  And since, in this view, it was Paul who first formulated that belief, he is the founder (or co-founder) of the Christian religion.

Paul vs. Jesus: Who Founded Christianity?

I have never found this line of argument convincing, for two reasons.  The first is that it contradicts some rather important facts of history and the second is that it contradicts what Paul himself says.

I’ll discuss both contradictions (the first in this post, the second in the next), but before doing so let me be clear and emphatic: I do NOT think that Paul and Jesus delivered the same message in their preaching, or that they did so in the same way.   There was an enormous difference between what they taught.

There are points of contact and continuity, to be sure.  But the differences are stark and need to be borne in mind constantly.

Comparing Paul’s and Jesus’ Teachings

Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was soon to arrive with the appearance from heaven of the Son of Man.  People needed to prepare for that imminent catastrophic event by turning to God and living in the ways that he decreed through the proper observance of the Torah, principally by loving (and trusting) God above all else and by loving their neighbors as themselves.  Those who did so would survive the coming onslaught and would be brought into the Kingdom.

Paul agreed that there was an imminent disaster to take place.  But in his view, that would happen when Jesus himself arrived from heaven in judgment.  The way a person would survive the onslaught was not by obeying the Law of God or by loving their neighbors as much as themselves.  Salvation would come only by believing in Christ’s death and resurrection.

(Click here to learn more about Paul’s importance to Christianity.)

In other words, Jesus preached about God and his coming Kingdom; Paul preached about Christ and his death and resurrection.  Important similarities, yes; but also fundamental and crucial differences.

If that’s the case, and what became Christianity was not the Jewish religion Jesus propounded but the religion Paul advocated – the religion about Jesus rather than the religion of Jesus – then what’s the problem with saying that it was Paul who founded Christianity?

Why Paul Was Not Christianity’s Founder

As I indicated, saying so contradicts both the facts of history and the statements of Paul himself.

First, facts of history.

As we saw in earlier posts, Paul was originally antagonistic toward the Christians and worked hard to “destroy” (his word) the church.  Thus both Paul and the book of Acts insist strongly that he started out not as a follower of Jesus but as a persecutor of his followers.

(In a later post, I’ll talk about what it was about the Christians and their claims that incensed Paul and made him want to oppose them with violence.  *Update: here’s the article.) 

But for now, I want to focus on the fact that prior to Paul there were Christians who were already making bold claims about Christ.  Where did these Christians come from?  Obviously from another founder of Christianity (not named Paul).  Again, both Paul and Acts are clear on the point: these were people who believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead for salvation.

If Paul had founded Christianity, there would have been no one for him to…

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The Core of Paul’s Gospel
Paul as a Persecutor of the Church



  1. Avatar
    godspell  June 1, 2016

    I know I nitpick a lot, but I agree with every word of this. You might as well say Brigham Young founded Mormonism. There might not be any Mormons today if not for Brigham Young. But that doesn’t make him the founder. James Madison played a far more influential role than George Washington, one could argue, in shaping the nation we are today, but he was just not a very important figure in the founding of that nation (too young at the time).

    Paul reshaped an existing religion, which was in need of ideas that could help it survive the growing understanding that the Kingdom was not in fact coming anytime soon. A religious cult is not the same thing as a religious institution, and Paul provided some of the basic building blocks for that institution to emerge. His influence is enormous, but it’s influence over something that existed before he joined up.

    If you wanted to get perverse, you could say that having set out to destroy what Jesus had started (and it doesn’t seem like he was terribly effective as a persecutor), he succeeded to a certain extent by converting to that new sect of Judaism, and making it into something Jesus never intended. And yet, of course, we probably wouldn’t remember Jesus, at least not to the same extent, had this not happened.

    If you can’t beat em……

  2. Avatar
    Michael Fischer  June 1, 2016

    Bart, don’t the Gospels paint a different goal for Jesus than Paul? When there are ideas such as this “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,'” Mark 4:11 ESV it seems to me that the biggest difference is that Jesus intended on dying not becoming popular.. we see accounts of Him clearing out crowds and investing in a small group of believers whilst not making friends with the ones in authority.. I think it would be radical to determine whether or not the historical Jesus taught the way he did and did the things he did with the intentions of dying..

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      Mark 4:11 is referring specifically to the reasons for Jesus telling parables: it was so outsiders couldn’t know what he was talking about. Paul, of course, doesn’t deal with that issue (since he never mentions Jesus’ parables, let alone the reasons he told them)

    • Avatar
      godspell  June 2, 2016

      I strongly believe Jesus had the idea that his death was necessary for some time, but I doubt he believed that from the start of his ministry. I think it’s probably something that he started contemplating after John the Baptist’s execution. John’s death didn’t really have that much impact–I have a hard time buying the story about Salome, but very likely Herod had him killed very quietly, to avoid much public uproar. Jesus, John’s former disciple, would have found this horrifying. He would have known the same thing could happen to him. Just snuffed out like a candle, and nobody notices.

      So on some level, he may have been thinking about how he could make his death more–significant. There is an element of theater to the way things went down. He couldn’t control every aspect of the unfolding passion play, but he could have a pretty good general idea how how things would go if he did certain things in a certain way. People are very predictable, when you get right down to it.

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      That was common diarist explanation for why the ideas of Christianity were unknown during the lifetime of Jesus. Writing much later, John made no pretense of an explanation.

      The gospel diarists were evangelists. They included texts portraying Jesus as a Zealot, for those who wanted to see him that way. Every outspoken Zealot knew his life was in danger.

      True, we have no credible way to determine what Jesus thought and did during his lifetime. Whatever they were, they weren’t noteworthy. His sayings could have been taken from Hillel, and perhaps were. Aside from gospel diarists decades later, no one wrote anything about him that survives today. Not Jews, not friends, not enemies.

  3. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  June 1, 2016

    In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
    Is Paul claiming that Jesus believed in his own death and resurrection rather than the coming kingdom, or is “faith IN the Son of God” the more appropriate translation?
    QUESTION UNRELATED TO THIS POST: I read in a commentary on Mark 10:25 that there is no “eye of the needle” gate in Jerusalem, contrary to much evangelical exegesis. What of the Aramaic back-translation story, that the same word in Aramaic can be translated both as “camel” and as “rope?” Could this verse be a mistranslation of an authentic Jesus saying, “It is easier to thread a needle with a rope than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom?”

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      It’s a debated issue. I personally think he means faith IN Christ. And yes, no eye of the needle gate. We have some ARamaic experts on the blog, but my understanding is that the words for rope and camel are *similar* (but different words).

      • Avatar
        SidDhartha1953  June 2, 2016

        If any Aramaic experts want to weigh in, I’d love to know your insights.

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      It’s dangerous to base a doctrine on a single text like that, especially when the foundation could be a simple textual variant, therefore not what Paul wrote. In the biblical context, faith is believing an idea about God, and then acting on it. Jesus did that, even if he wasn’t God, or didn’t know that he was God, or didn’t know that he would become the universal sacrifice of a new religion. So did Paul.

      Paul says practically nothing about anything Jesus thought, believed, said, or did during his lifetime.

      It’s unnecessary to grasp at straws in desperate attempts to rationalize the eye of the needle. Occam’s Razor. The simple explanation is hyperbole. Jewish sages used it all the time. Hate your mother and brother.

      The Pharisees interacted with, and identified with, the common people. They often railed against the rich, not for simple jealousy of their wealth, but because the rich were the powerful, and sometimes abused their power and oppressed the poor, denying them justice. That was also the most common rant of the prophets.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  June 2, 2016

      The Eye of the Needle gate is a myth. It was probably created by apologists who wanted to get around the whole rich-men-are-doomed preaching of the NT that is very inconvenient for a modern society that is both Christian and capitalist.

      As for whether Jesus said camel or rope, well, for starters, does it even make a difference? Both are impossibilities, and that’s the whole point of the metaphor. It’s impossible for a rich man to get into the Kingdom.

      As for the question of whether the original Aramaic could be read as either camel or rope, that’s the fault of basically one man. His name is George Lamsa, an Assyrian scholar who published a translation of the Peshitta, a Syriac version of the NT, into English in the last century. In his translation Lamsa translated “camel” as “rope” in Mark 10:25. The problem is the Aramaic word for rope isn’t gamla (the word for camel). But it’s similiar to the word for rope in Assyrian, the native language of Lamsa! Now, Assyrian and Aramaic, both being semitic languages, are definitely similar (think Spanish and Italian). But the Aramaic spoken by Jesus — 1st century Palestinian Aramaic — was a bit more different than Syriac, let alone Assyrian.

      Yes, I know this is all terribly confusing, but many people talk about “Aramaic” as if it’s some kind of monolithic language. It’s kind of like talking about “Chinese” as if it’s a monolithic language. Mandarin and Cantonese are both “Chinese” but they’re certainly different. Same goes for ancient Palestinian Aramaic vs Syriac Aramaic vs Assyrian Aramaic. Anyway, the word Jesus could have used for “rope” back then was kebla, which may possibily have been confused for gamla (camel), but I highly doubt it.

  4. Avatar
    Todd  June 1, 2016

    I appreciate your presentation today. What you outline is significant…a developmental progression from the Jesus event in history to it’s interpretation through the ministry of Paul.

    There is one element in all of this that has puzzled me for a long time and my questions to scholars and the clergy and my teachers about it often are ignored. I think it is extremely important, and has become, for me, a stumbling block in my personal acceptance of the Christian doctrine of the atonement, which Paul deems critical….that is, Paul’s **vistions**

    Paul, especially in Galations, pointedly declares that his gospel (“my gospel”) is not from man but from the Risen Christ directly (through vision (s)) beginning with his conversion vision….and perhaps many more during his ministry.

    So, we have some choices….1. are Paul’s visions genuinely from encounters with the Risen Christ, 2. Contrived events for the purpose of making his message more convincing, 3. are Paul’s visions psychotic hallucinations. (These are just three possible options.)

    Paul never met nor studied with Jesus personally and met with the Jesus group only twice, the last being more than 14 years into his ministry…leading to an exchange of harsh words with the Jesus group in Jerusalem.

    I could go on with this, but to sum up, what are your thoughts on Paul’s visions and conversations directly with the risen Christ as the source of his gospel…or was Paul’s theology already being taught in the early churches during the time of Paul’s ministry, which Paul adopted as his message?

    I don’t know the answer to this and I would like your thoughts on it. I think the issue of Paul’s visions is significant; others consider them irrelevant. Thank you in advance.

    • Avatar
      Todd  June 1, 2016

      Sorry…I have difficulty editing on my phone…I meant to spell it “visions” not visitions

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      I deal with this issue at some length in How Jesus Became God (arguing that Paul and others either had had non-veridical visions, i.e., hallucinations, or veridical ones — i.e. genuine encounters)

      • Avatar
        Todd  June 2, 2016

        Since your blog posts were so thorough it did not purchase your book on how Jesus became God (me bad)….I will do so soon since it contains information I am seeking. Thank you for the heads-up on that.

      • TWood
        TWood  June 2, 2016

        So you think it’s possible that Peter and Paul really saw Jesus after his crucifixion (almost like a Docetic view)?

        I have a related question. I find it strange that when Paul explains his vision of Jesus (in 1 Cor. 15), he makes a distinction between his later vision and the earlier visions of Peter, John, James, et al., but only in regards to the timing of them (Paul seems to say that Jesus appears to him in the same way Jesus appeared to the others before him).

        In other words, Paul doesn’t seem to make any distinction in regards to the essence of the visions or appearances. If Paul’s post ascension vision is essentially the same as the pre ascension visions of Peter, John, James, et al., then Paul seems to really blend together his later “spiritual” vision with their earlier “physical” visions.

        It seems if people didn’t know the backstory, they’d never pickup that Paul saw Jesus in a much different way than the original disciples saw him. Or maybe Paul is hinting that the original appearances were a bit more spiritual (like his was) than we commonly assume (in the gospels Jesus eats but he also walks through walls!).

        Am I missing something here—does Paul (in the Greek perhaps) make a distinction in regards to the essence of his later vision versus the earlier visions of the others?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 3, 2016

          Yes, I think Peter and Paul both did have visions of Jesus. And yes, I think Paul wanted his readers to know that his vision of Jesus was every bit as real, and the same kind of vision, that the others had had.

          • TWood
            TWood  June 3, 2016

            Interesting. Something like cognitive dissonance could perhaps cause Peter’s vision, but it seems unlikely it would cause Paul’s vision. In your view, what caused these visions (especially Paul’s)?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 4, 2016

            No idea! But on cognitive dissonance, see today’s post.

        • Avatar
          HistoricalChristianity  June 3, 2016

          Paul doesn’t explain his visions, and rarely hints at which of his ideas came from visions/dreams, which from others, and which are original with Paul. The essential, and probably original, idea of Christianity was Jesus as the universal sacrifice. From that foundation, all the rest is philosophy. We know he was the sacrifice, but what was his nature? That’s Christology.

          People believed that dreams and visions conveyed information. They were of course untestable. As Paul gained popularity and influence, his followers believed whatever he said. He didn’t need to cite sources. Today we know dreams and visions are NOT sources if information, but millions (billions?) of people act as if they are.

          We have no certain record of any of Paul’s sources, either dreams/visions or other people. I generally suggest that most of the ideas originated with Paul. Not because I can prove it, but because we can’t trace them any farther back in time. Paul was intelligent, educated, trained in rhetoric, charismatic, and persuasive. We know of no certain writing by anyone in active dialog with Paul. Acts was written probably a couple of decades after Paul’s death.

          Most biblical textual scholars suggest that the Deutero-Pauline epistles (2 Thess, Colossians, Ephesians) were likely written by students of Paul. It was common for such students to write in the name of their teacher, out of respect for the teacher. If the pastoral epistles were also written by students of Paul, they certainly stay with Paul’s ideas.

          • SBrudney091941
            SBrudney091941  June 5, 2016

            Many people in psychology and in New Age traditions believe that dreams give us information about ourselves.

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      Paul’s ‘symptoms’ on the Damascus road match perfectly those of temporal lobe epilepsy.

      I agree Paul was not likely the founder of Christianity. The work of Walter Bauer and others suggest other variants of Christianity predate Paul. But he is the main candidate for the founder of proto-orthodox Christianity.

  5. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 1, 2016

    Re Jesus’s own beliefs, there are two (unanswerable?) questions that nag at me.

    1. Did he really start out believing he was the Messiah, or did his disciples convince him he was?

    2. Did he really expect a startling event to take place during that Passover week in Jerusalem, or did he see his preaching as (hopefully) hastening an event that would take place within the next few decades?

    If the first choices in both those cases were his actual beliefs, I would suspect “delusions of grandeur.”

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      1. We don’t know, but I assume it was his idea; 2. Almost certainly not.

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      The synoptic gospels most strongly portray Jesus as filling a role as a messiah by working as a sage of Second Temple Judaism. All the Pharisees encouraged the learning, teaching, and obedience of Torah. Not least of the motivations was to motivate God to bless Israel by giving them back their political independence. His early teachings were those of John the Baptist, and that’s what John was about.

      Only from the later writings of the Johannine community could you justifiably accuse Jesus of delusions of grandeur.

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 1, 2016

    Very interesting. That Paul was persecuting Christians is persuasive evidence that there was some form of Christianity before Paul and, hence, Paul was not the founder of this form of Christianity. focused on belief in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. I look forward to learning more about why Paul persecuted the Christians with such vigor….Carry on!

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  June 3, 2016

      If true (and I think we have only Paul’s word for it), it is evidence for some prior form of Christianity. But Paul could still have been the founder of proto-orthodox Christianity.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 4, 2016

      Depends on what we mean by “Christian.” We’re not talking about Jews or gentiles believing that they could avoid the wages of their sins by believing in Jesus as the savior. We’re talking about Jews who believed Jesus was still the messiah, having been resurrected, and would return to rid the Jews of their enemies, restore the nation Israel, and usher in the Kingdom of God. The salvation they believed in and that Paul wrote about was, as Bart has written, “the deliverance Jesus’ followers would experience when the rest of the world was destroyed at the second coming.” On the other hand, perhaps the focus on Jesus himself and the belief in him would be enough for other Jews to see it as at least verging on idolatry and for us to call it Christian, thus separating it from the Judaisms of the day–even though it might not have yet involved belief in Jesus’ death as sacrificial or at least the belief that that belief could effect redemption from the wages of sin.

  7. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 1, 2016

    P.S. to Previous: And the “delusions of grandeur” may have been precisely what turned Judas against him!

  8. talmoore
    talmoore  June 1, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, as to the difference between what Jesus preached vs. what Paul preached, I just finished reading Vermes’ “The Religion of Jesus the Jew”, in which Vermes basically says the same thing you’re saying, though he comes at it from the Jewish angle (ala Rabbinic literature). However, upon reading Vermes’ discussion of Jesus’ teaching on the Law (not to mention the entire 4th vol. of Meier’s “A Marginal Jew”), I can’t help but feel that my initial suspicions have been confirmed; namely, that Jesus didn’t talk much about the Law — much less whether it was abrogated or not — and that 90+% of what Jesus had to say during the time of his relatively short “mission” was taken up with eschatological talk — that is to say, “Repent for the end times are at hand!” To quote Vermes: “The religion of Jesus the Jew is a rare, possibly unique, manifestation of undiluted eschatological enthusiasm.”(p.190)

    “Possibly unique” might be an overstatement on Vermes’ part, because I can’t help thinking about Muhammad and how his “revelations” as preserved in the Qur’an are almost entirely made up of eschatological exhortations. Indeed, it seems the only significant difference between Muhammad’s and Jesus’ message was that Muhammad seemed as equally obsessed with stamping out idolatry and polytheism as he was with preaching heaven and hellfire. (Since Jesus was preaching almost exclusively to fellows Jews, it would have been unnecessary for him to preach against idolatry.)

    If that’s the case, then trying to determine whether Jesus was as antinomian as Paul is futile. In fact, the question is bordering on the absurd, primarily because questioning the primacy of the Torah was so out of Jesus’ view that even trying to determine if he proposed to abrogate it or not is completely anachronistic. It’s as if we tried to determine if Montesquieu believed the American colonies should become an independent republic simply because the Founding Fathers were inspired by “The Spirit of the Laws”. That is, it assumes a totally anachronistic cause-and-effect.

    That’s why I think the antinomianism of Paul is almost certainly the creation of Paul and his like-minded acolytes (Barnabas, Timothy, et al.) and NOT the determined plan of Jesus at all. And as to why Paul created this notion of salvation apart from the Law, as I’ve stated before, I think it was simply a matter of pragmatism and expediency on the part of Paul. Paul was single-minded in gathering in all the righteous Gentiles as quick as possible (so as to bring about the Parousia as soon as possible), and if the Law was a stumbling block to that goal, then, well, the Law had to go. Or, as Vermes puts it: “Since the obligatory imposition of the Torah on Gentiles, including circumcision, would have stopped many from joining the church, the Jewish Law, the innermost source of Jesus’ piety, was not only made optional, but had to go, be abolished in the name of Christ.” (p.212)

  9. Avatar
    john76  June 1, 2016

    Paul is probably not the original author of the Corinthian Creed, which states “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-5, NASB).” Paul says he received this information. The author was probably Peter. Interestingly, if the author of the gospel Mark knew the Pauline epistles, and the author of the gospel of John knew at least one of the synoptics, then we may have only one independent source for the crucifixion and resurrection, not multiple attestations. In fact, it may all go back to a single author: the author of the Corinthian Creed. Probably Peter. One source. Who cites only scripture and visions as evidence.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      See today’s post. I’m afraid we have no idea who wrote the thing, but it probably wasn’t Peter, since he didn’t write Greek.

  10. Avatar
    flshrP  June 1, 2016

    “When Jesus was living, his disciples (some of them? All of them?) appear to have wondered if, or thought that, he was the messiah. His arrest, trial, and crucifixion showed them that they had been wrong. He clearly was not the messiah. But when they came to believe that he had been raised from the dead, they “understood.” That is to say, they reinterpreted what they had previously thought in light of the new situation. They came to see that Jesus was indeed the messiah, the one whom God would use for salvation. But it was not that he would overthrow the Roman armies or set up a kingdom in Jerusalem. He was a different kind of messiah. One who had to die for the sake of others.”

    You have described very succinctly and correctly both the cognitive dissonance that the execution of Jesus caused in the minds of his disciples and their chosen method of resolving this dissonant state. Namely, start stories of apparitions of Jesus and call them proof of his resurrection.

    This phenomenon has occurred many times in the history of Christianity, usually in relation to disconfirmation of claims of the imminence the Rapture, the Second Coming or other failed apocalyptic prophecies. Leon Festinger was the scientist to name this phenomenon in his classic 1956 book “When Prophecy Fails”.

    IMHO cognitive dissonance theory, rather than mass hallucinations, better explains how the disciples of Jesus rationalized his death by execution and came to believe in his resurrection.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      When Prophecy Fails: great book! But cognitive dissonance can be the *reason* for the visions; it doesn’t have to be an alternative to them.

  11. Avatar
    doug  June 1, 2016

    Excellent summary of Jesus’ teachings and of Paul’s teachings. Thank you.

  12. Avatar
    llamensdor  June 1, 2016

    I have to share this with you: In a news article today relating to the chaos in Brazil, the reporter quoted a Brazilian aphorism: ” Even the past is unpredictable.” As a historian, you gotta love it.

  13. cheito
    cheito  June 1, 2016

    DR Ehrman:


    Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was soon to arrive with the appearance from heaven of the Son of Man. People needed to prepare for that imminent catastrophic event by turning to God and living in the ways that he decreed through the proper observance of the Torah, principally by loving (and trusting) God above all else and by loving their neighbors as themselves. Those who did so would survive the coming onslaught and would be brought into the Kingdom.


    I don’t believe Jesus taught what you assert He taught in the above statement. The synoptic Gospels taught that Jesus said that the son of man would come in his generation.

    The synoptic Gospels are unreliable sources. We don’t really know who wrote them. Nor do we know for what reason these persons wrote them.

    The persons themselves who wrote the synoptic Gospels were not eyewitnesses and Certainly God did not instruct nor commission these persons to write these accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

    We can’t be sure if they’re quoting Jesus accurately.

    In fact they contradict each other. Their statements are historically inaccurate. So how can one know for sure what Jesus really said about the kingdom of God or about when that Kingdom would be revealed to humanity?

    We cannot know based on the synoptic Gospels.

    Your assertions are null and void.

    All one can do, when relying on the synoptic sources is speculate at best, and speculation is futile when one wants to ascertain the exact words of Jesus…

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 4, 2016

      Your assertion that Bart’s assertions are null and void is null and void.

  14. Avatar
    quiringwalt@gmail.com  June 1, 2016

    Thank you, Bart, for your elucidating Church History for us.
    I am (was) a Mennonite for 70 years- but always thought (wondered) that the Church Leaders were lying (hiding the truth) to/from us. Of course many leaders were just as ignorant as the rest of us- only could talk faster and smarter.
    May I suggest that we all take a sabbatical (at least) for one year from Christianity (and perhaps any other Religion) and start living ethically and civil as civilization would have it and we might be surprised how much our lives (as well as our politics) would be transformed for the better.
    As always, I always appreciate your thoughts.
    Walter Quiring

  15. Avatar
    allebone  June 1, 2016

    Oh wow, I am surprised you said that you never found this convincing, because when I listened to your course a while back, this was the exact impression I had taken as your position: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/from-jesus-to-constantine-a-history-of-early-christianity.html

  16. Avatar
    marcrm68  June 1, 2016

    Paul founded Christianity as we know it today. And, he gave divine revelation and scripture as his sources, while also acknowledging that the religion was in existence before he became a believer. Obviously there was no resurrection, there may not have even been a historical Jesus… Paul was either crazy, or a liar…and CS Lewis’s argument doesn’t hold water here. Paul may be the most interesting player in this whole story…

  17. Avatar
    Jason  June 1, 2016

    Did “Christ” have a meaning in Greek before Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      It would have referred to someone who was anointed with oil

      • Avatar
        Jason  June 2, 2016

        Follow up: was there a Greek context for anointing someone with oil before Alexander’s conquests?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 3, 2016

          I suppose athletes getting a rubdown? I don’t really know!

          • Avatar
            Jason  June 3, 2016

            Hah! Brilliant! That’s almost a Monty Pythonesque scene!
            “So, Phrastus, tell me about this new god you’re into.”
            “Wel his name is Jesus, called Christ.”
            “You mean to say he’s all greasy? Like a gladiator? Now that’s a God I could really get behind!”

  18. Avatar
    Iris Lohrengel  June 1, 2016

    What is the basis for the assumption that Jesús was an apocalyptic teacher?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      I lay it all out in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  June 3, 2016

      By all means, buy Ehrman’s book. But to me, the short answer is that the synoptic gospels portray him that way. His early teachings were those of John the Baptist. His sayings are peppered with the ‘kingdom of God’ phrase, which meant a politically independent Israel. With control over their own destiny, Israel could then forge a nation once again fully pleasing to God, and therefore receiving all the benefits promised in the Mosaic Covenant. It was described in typical apocalyptic / utopian terms, saying how wonderful it will be when God punishes all the bad people (especially the Romans) and blesses all the good people. Reversal of fortunes.

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    rbrtbaumgardner  June 2, 2016

    Would it be fair to say those who “witnessed,” reported, and publicized Jesus’ resurrection are the founders of Christianity? Perhaps, according to the stories, the women at tomb?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 2, 2016

      Yup, I’d say that started it.

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        jhague  June 2, 2016

        Except we think that Jesus’ body wasn’t actually in a tomb so there were no women at the tomb. Therefore didn’t it have to start with those claiming to have visions of Jesus?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 3, 2016

          Yes, that’s what I think. I explain why more fully in How Jesus Became God.

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  December 28, 2017

        How can you agree with that, Bart? Resurrection was not unknown in Judaism. The resurrection of someone some Jews believed was the messiah certainly was not part of any prophecy about him and would have been a big, unexpected surprise. But there was nothing, in itself, Christian about it. More had to be added to it for any such identification as Christian…his death as sacrificial, belief in him as the path to salvation…..

        • Bart
          Bart  December 28, 2017

          I don’t know of any tradition in early Judaism about a human who was killed (or otherwise died) who was raised from the dead, physically, and made an immortal being.

          • SBrudney091941
            SBrudney091941  December 28, 2017

            Putting aside, for the moment, the issue of becoming an immortal, wasn’t it Elisha and Elijah who each raised someone after they’d died? And didn’t Jesus raise Lazarus after he had been dead? I’m not saying that there’d been a history of it or tradition, just that it was not unknown in Judaism. Plus, many apocalyptic Jews believed the dead would be resurrected. So resurrection in itself was not announcing a new religion.

            I must admit, I only just ordered (finally) your How Jesus Became God. But from what you’ve written about it, it seems that it is only speculation to say that those who witnessed the risen Jesus MUST have also thought he’d ascended to Heaven to become an immortal being. But, even so, if he’d been made an angel, let’s say, who would return embodied to fulfill traditional messianic prophecies, you’d have resurrection, ascension, and a traditional messiah–all within a Jewish albeit slightly revised tradition. You would have no beliefs about the salvific value of his death or a teaching that one had to believe in him to be saved.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 30, 2017

            There is an important difference between “resuscitation” and “resurrection”. Resuscitation happens when a person is dead and then restored to life. That person dies again later. Resurrection is when a person is dead and then raised and made immortal, never to die again. There is no instance of that in the early Jewish tradition.

          • SBrudney091941
            SBrudney091941  December 30, 2017

            Bart, please bear with me while I push this group of questions further. I’m not arguing as much as I am proposing alternatives regarding which your responses can help me get clear.

            Bart, Didn’t you say in an earlier post that that is what the first Christians believed–that, merely in virtue of being resurrected and given immortality, he had been made God-like?
            Enoch and Elijah were taken up to Heaven without dying or being resurrected. People did not, as far as I know, leap to the conclusion that they had been made God-like (except in their immortality).

          • Bart
            Bart  December 31, 2017

            That’s the point. Anyone taken up into heaven *was* made a divine being. That’s one of the points about Enoch made in 1 Enoch — he was made divine. See my book How Jesus Became God. I lay out the evidence there.

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      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      Per the synoptic gospels, Jesus was definitely not Antinomian.

      Perhaps Paul recognized that he was offering the region its very first free religion! No sacrifices required. No dues to a religious hierarchy. That may be why Paul’s churches didn’t have leadership until after his death. 1 Clement wanted a church hierarchy justified by the doctrine of apostolic succession.

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      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      I think that’s a key contender, but not the only candidate. The Greek mystery religions were already thinking about a universal sacrifice, and no resurrection is required for that.

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    dragonfly  June 2, 2016

    I guess Jesus was a fairly common name in Palestine at the time, so when talking about Jesus the Messiah the early Christians would have kept calling him Jesus the Messiah to distinguish him from any of the other Jesus’s around. The title stuck, and the “the” got dropped, possibly even before the Greek speaking Christians started talking about Jesus (the) Christ.

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      HistoricalChristianity  June 2, 2016

      They called him Jesus of Nazareth, as was the custom. Anointment was not limited to a messianic role.

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