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Old 06-11-2019, 04:08 PM
Corry El is offline
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 4,246
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
I guess it depends on how you define your terms. Something, that it seems not unreasonable to refer to as "Christianity," existed before Paul got involved with it.

But it absolutely is a matter of debate, and we'll never know for sure, how much of what we think of today as "Christianity" originated with Paul, or how much different it would be if Paul had never gotten involved.

Still, it seemed wrong to me to claim, unequivocally, in the General Questions forum, that "Paul started Christianity," for reasons explained in the article I linked to.
It does depend on definitions, but 'invent' is a fairly extreme word. If somebody said 'Paul was a key figure in the spread of Christianity and the start of its evolution toward the dominant religion in the Western world' it would be hard to argue with that from any perspective, pro- or anti- or genuinely neutral toward Christianity. I think claims like 'Paul invented Christianity' are really more a reflection on recent Western civilization and its conflicted relationship with Christianity, or among Westerners for or against Christianity (pretty much by definition there's not a large % of people who genuinely don't care one way or the other about Christianity but are still interested in discussing stuff like this ). There's a tendency to make statements that sound controversial that could be put in less controversial terms.

Also, in recent decades Christianity's take on homosexuality has become much more important than previously when it was in line with society's general take (whether or not society's general take was dictated by Christianity, which it wasn't necessarily). And Paul had something to say about that topic which Jesus did not, again under the assumption 'what they said' just means what is attributed to them. That's a big elephant in the room in discussing Paul now.

But as the linked article said, there just isn't much logic to the idea that Paul gained a following writing about his missionary work supported by existing churches founded by followers of Jesus...which didn't exist until he came along. Anything's possible, as in the whole thing could have been invented much later. Nobody can disprove that, but that doesn't mean it's plausible as a default assumption. And this is why I asked before what is meant by 'what Jesus said'. If it's what's attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, though most or maybe all of that was probably written down after Paul, what the's invention or reinvention exactly by Paul? The claim that 'Paul invented Christianity' generally goes logically with a view that the Gospels, especially John, don't accurately reflect the ministry and message of the historical Jesus (if any). There's no basic reinvention by Paul of what the Gospels say, again if not focusing on a few cases where Paul instructed Christians how to live their lives on topics Jesus did not touch on. In general Paul is less specific than Jesus, but along a basically similar theme. Again, with the key being definition of 'what Jesus said' as what the Gospels say Jesus said. Otherwise you have to define what other method the new religion based 'only on what Jesus said' would use to determine 'what Jesus said'.