Or whatever followers of Paul would want to call themselves. I ran across an extensive list of quotes collected in an article of faith outlining how Paul’s writings (plus those who wrote under his name for their own cross purposes) created a faith that ran in a different direction than whatever it was Christ intended. I’ll just pick a few:
Leo Tolstoy, a devout Christian and probably the greatest Russian writer ever, writes in “My Religion:” “The separation between the doctrine of life and the explanation of life began with the preaching of Paul who knew not the ethical teachings set forth in the Gospel of Matthew, and who preached a metaphisico-cabalistic theory entirely foreign to Christ; and this separation was perfected in the time of Constantine, when it was found possible to clothe the whole pagan organization of life in a Christian dress, and without changing it to call it Christianity.”
This I like. Consider Christmas and Easter. They’re two high holidays for Christians yet so much of the pageantry around both events comes out of earlier pagan traditions. It must have been so much easier to encourage pagans to become Christian if they could still celebrate those times of year with evergreen and eggs.
H.G. Wells, famous English science-fiction writer, observes in “The Outline of History:” “It is equally a fact in history that St. Paul and his successors added to or completed or imposed upon or substituted another doctrine for- as you may prefer to think- the plain and profoundly revolutionary teachings of Jesus by expounding a subtle and complex theory of salvation, a salvation which could be attained very largely by belief and formalities, without any serious disturbance of the believer’s ordinary habits and occupations.”
What did Christ want his followers to do? Repent? Follow the ten commandments? Be more Jewish and keep the sabbath holy? Ditch the folks and the money and wander around telling everyone you know that the end is nigh? Harper’s has a great article done in 2005 about the Christian paradox and why people don’t agree on this. Totally worth a read.
Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, wrote in his essay “A Psychological Approach to Dogma:” “Saul’s (Paul’s name before his conversion) fanatical resistance to Christianity was never entirely overcome. It is frankly disappointing to see how Paul hardly ever allows the real Jesus of Nazareth to get a word in.”
Too busy with his own ambitions and dreams, I suppose. And what’s resulted from this are guys like Tim Tebow, who behaves totally opposite of what Christ preached for his followers during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5 – “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full) and prosperity preachers and the like.
One more, since I earlier linked to a write-up I did about one of the man’s books:
Bart Ehrman, American New Testament scholar and Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, writes in “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture:” “What did the historical Jesus teach in comparison with what the historical Paul taught? Jesus taught that to escape judgment a person must keep the central teachings of the Jewish Law as he, Jesus himself, interpreted them. Paul, interestingly enough, never mentions Jesus’ interpretation of the (Mosaic) Law, and Paul was quite insistent that keeping the Law would never bring Salvation. The only way to be saved, for Paul, was to trust Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul transformed the religion of Jesus into a religion about Jesus.”
And rather than emulate the man as described in the gospels, some tend to worship their idealized version of a god, a god who – amazing, isn’t it? – thinks just like they do. Paul started it, and many have continued in that vein since. If Jesus actually did come back to earth, incognito, let’s say for fun, would he recognize himself as described by followers now?