Is Saint Paul the True Founder of Christianity?

The question has been pondered for years – can Saint Paul be credited as having founded Christianity? When asked, some believers are adamant that the credit should go to Jesus. After all, without Christ, there would be no such thing as Christianity.

Jesus was a Jew, however, and remained a Jew throughout his time on Earth. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus celebrated his Jewish heritage, and even partook in the festivals and Holy Days that had been implemented in the Torah – the first five books of the Old Testament.

By studying the life and ministry of Jesus, it’s also clear that his purpose was to turn the Jewish people away from their sin, and then at the end of his Earthly life, he was to make an atoning sacrifice – one that would replace the Old Covenant that required blood from animal sacrifices. He lived out the will of his Father perfectly, and instead of starting a new religion, Jesus fulfilled all that had been written.

But then, who should we credit for creating Christianity? Surely not Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul). After all, Paul was a Jew who killed those who embraced the teachings of Jesus and his disciples. This new teaching was not called Christianity, however. It was often referred to as “The Way” and followers of this new belief in the Messiah were often called “Nazarenes.”

If Paul was Jewish, then how could he have been the founder of Christianity? Some argue that Saint Paul, or the Apostle Paul, never left his Jewish faith. What he did do, however, (after having a life-changing encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus) was extend the reach of the Gospel message to include the Gentiles.

In the 18th chapter of the book of Acts, Paul is seen trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks that Jesus was the Messiah. According to Acts 18:6, when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Paul went on to write letters to the different bodies of believers that he had built relationships with, including the Corinthians, the Philippians, the Romans and the Ephesians. His letters make up a majority of the New Testament. While the Old Testament is still relevant for today’s believers, many Christians focus on the teachings of Jesus and of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

For the Jewish people who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah they still remained Jewish. They didn’t suddenly have a whole new religion. They still kept their Sabbath, they still communed together in the synagogues, and many of them kept the same dietary laws that had been a part of their faith since the days of Moses. It’s the same today – many Jews who come to know Jesus as their Savior don’t call themselves Christians, instead they call themselves Jewish believers.

While Jesus came to “minister only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), he remained a Jew and never converted to anything else. According to Paula Fredriksen, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Paul too, remained a Jew and continued to observe the Jewish Holy Days. However, it wasn’t Paul’s intent to convert Gentiles to the Jewish faith. Instead, Paul taught them that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, they could be saved from their sin, and that through this Savior they could be made righteous.

In the book of Romans, Paul tells the Gentiles, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree–some of the people of Israel–have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” (Romans 11:17) One could interpret this passage as saying that Christianity takes its roots from Judaism and both Christians and Jews are branches of one tree. And in a sense, these first non-Jewish, Gentile believers became some of the first Christians.

Although Christianity wouldn’t exist without Jesus, it can’t be said that he actually founded it. Since Paul was chosen to convert the Gentiles (and since those Gentiles couldn’t become Jews), it makes sense that he is credited for founding the Christian faith as we know it today. And now you know.

~ Christian Patriot Daily


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