We next move on to the claim that Paul Invented Christianity
4. That the religion bearing his name was conceived by the theories and doctrines of Paul, instead of the truth Jesus lived and demonstrated.
Now in the Church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Ac 13:1–3).
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up by revelation; and I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage—to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me; but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles), and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do. (Ga 2:1–10).
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the chalice, after supper, saying, “This chalice is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the chalice, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Co 11:23–26).
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Co 15:3–11).
Paul, while certainly making many contributions to the Church’s theology, did not invent it and was, in fact, entirely dependent on the tradition he “received” from the twelve. He spent years in Antioch after his conversion, learning that Tradition, while the Twelve were out busy preaching. He did not take apostleship upon himself, but received the sacrament of ordination at the hands (literally) of the Church in Antioch prior to being sent out by that community (that’s what’s going on in Acts 13). And he returns there after his first missionary journey, precisely because he is not some independent crank inventing Christianity but is working in tandem with a wide variety of others, many of whom precede him. That’s why he went to Jerusalem to have his preaching vetted by the original apostles and the Mother Church.
There’s a reason Peter, not Paul, is venerated as the first pope and an entire Johannine biblical tradition exists apart from Paul. Paul’s letters contain creeds, hymns and psalms he quotes, not writes, because he stands in a tradition he did not create and celebrates a liturgy not of his invention. His greatest letter–Romans–is written to a Church he neither founded, nor had met, and is a sort of audition of his preaching so that they can know he is not some crank but preaches a message that agrees with what they already heard from others.
The notion of Paul the Lone Ranger Inventor of Christianity has to die. Christianity was, from the get-go, a communal phenomenon founded on 12 apostles, not one. The notion that Paul invented Christianity is a relic of sola scriptura and the fantasy that the Church was founded on the New Testament and not (as Jesus himself says), on the Twelve with himself as the stone the builders rejected which became the chief cornerstone. It is to the Twelve, not Paul, that Jesus gives the promise that they shall sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Whatever that is, it is not a belief in Pauline supremacy. The Church was founded on the preaching, teaching and liturgies of the apostles who founded Church’s all over the ancient world, not on a book. The New Testament is called the New Testament because it was read in close proximity to the celebration of the Eucharist, the “new diatheke (testament/covenant) in my blood”. And it is the gospels, not Paul, that have always enjoyed pride of place in that celebration.