The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Theology of Paul

Paul was the true founder of Christianity. This statement is supported by two basic facts:

The Origins of Christian Theology in the Pauline Epistles

It is in the epistles of Paul that we find the kernels of many tenets and dogmas of modern Christian theology. These teachings were to be fully developed by later Christian theologians but it cannot be doubted that Paul metaphorically planted the seeds for the subsequent development and evolution of Christian theology.

It was Paul who developed the first working doctrine of what eventually became known as the Atonement. [1] According to his teaching, God created Adam and Eve to live forever in Paradise; but they expressly disobeyed God's command not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: the forbidden fruit. As a result of this disobedience, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden and lost that precious gift of immortality.

Romans 5:12
as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all man, because all sinned...

According to Paul Adam's fall brought death on all mankind:

Romans 5:14
death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam...

It was through Jesus' sacrificial death, he added, that man is brought into a reconciliation with God.

Romans 5:6-8
You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins.

It was Paul who initiated the habit of calling the Galilean nabi, Jesus Christ (See the earlier quote from I Thessalonians 1:1) as though it were a proper name, much like John Smith. This innovation of Paul's is, strictly speaking, incorrect; for "Christ" (or messiah) is a title. It is more properly rendered as Jesus the Christ, just like John the Baptist or Attila the Hun. [2]

Paul also introduced the rudiments of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith which was later developed by the Protestant reformers during the sixteenth century.

Galatians 2:16 (Galatians 3:11)
A man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:28
A man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law.

Paul meant by this "faith", not what the word is usually taken to mean today, i.e. belief without proof, but a feeling of trust in God's promise. Paul gave an example of this faith by recalling the Genesis story of Abraham's trust in God: [3]

Romans 4:18-22
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had ben said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised. That is why "it was credited to him as righteousness."

Being a Christian to Paul is the faithful acceptance of Jesus' death as the propitiation for their sins:

Romans 3:25-26
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus.

Paul taught that being baptized is a remembrance of Jesus' death and his resurrection is proof that the faithful too will one day be resurrected.

Romans 6:1-5
You have been taught that when we were baptized in Christ Jesus we were baptized in his death; in other words when we were baptized we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory, we too might live a new life. If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection.

It was also with Paul that Jesus started his journey to complete deification. Paul taught that Jesus became the Son of God after his resurrection:

Romans 1:1-4
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ...who through the spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus, to Paul, is the image of God:

II Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age had blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

To Paul, Jesus was certainly more than a human being:

Philippians 2:6-7
His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are.

The statement above should not be taken to mean that Paul considered Jesus as God, that would be reading the text through the distorting prism of subsequent development in christology. In Paul's eyes Jesus was subservient to God. This can be seen in the description of the resurrection, the supremely important event in his theology; here it was God who raised Jesus:

Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The passage in Philippians 2:6-7 above shows that Paul considered Jesus as a special man that is close to God. The Judaism that Paul was brought up in has a well established tradition that special individuals actually dwelt with God before they descend to earthed live out their earthly life. Some rabbis even believe that the Torah was a favoured being who was in heaven with God before coming down to earth in Mount Sinai. The same was said about the Old Testament idea of Wisdom:

Wisdom 7:25-26
She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of eternal light, untarnished mirror of God's active power, the image of his goodness.

Of course nobody considers Wisdom as God. Similarly, Paul did not consider Jesus to be God. [4] Be that as it may, Paul definitely considered Jesus to be something more than human.

The theologian Don Cuppitt summarizes the teaching of Paul as it was reflected in the early Gentile Church:

It was a religion of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, a pre-existent divine being who had been sent by God to save men from their sins by his sacrificial death. He was now risen, ascended, glorified, the Lord of all...[5]

We have seen that Jesus taught something completely different from this kerygma (Greek for preaching) of Paul. As Cuppitt himself admits:

To put it crudely, Jesus had not taught, had not been aware of these ideas. [6]

Contradictions Between Paul's and Jesus' Teachings

That the central theme of Pauline theology is not to be found in the authentic teachings of Jesus is not the only disturbing thing about it. We find that in some cases Paul's teachings were actually diametrically opposite to Jesus'. As an example Jesus, believing in the imminent coming of the kingdom during his lifetime, taught his followers not to worry about what tomorrow would bring and to first seek the kingdom of God:

Matthew 6:25-34
Therefore, I tell you, don't be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you of much more value than they? Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan? Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don't toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won't he much more clothe you, you of little faith? Therefore don't be anxious, saying, "What will we eat?", "What will we drink?" or, "With what will we be clothed?" For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don't be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own evil is sufficient.

Whatever we may feel about the merits of such teachings, its message is obvious: Jesus is telling his followers to eschew the normal everyday life of working for a living ("the birds in the sky...don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns...the lillies in the field...don't toil, neither do they spin") and to live the absolute ethic straight away while looking for the kingdom of God. But Pauline theology (written probably by one of Paul's disciples) opposes this and calls for believers to work for a living: [7]

II Thessalonians 3:6,10
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us...For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."


The most significant difference in the teachings of these two men, however, lies in their attitude towards the Law of Moses. In fact one of the fundamental tenets of Pauline theology is that Jesus' death actually abrogated the law. This is expounded clearly in the passage from one of his epistles:

Galatians 2:15-16
We who are Jews by birth and not "Gentile sinners" know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one is justified.

This teaching of Paul's is, of course, familiar to Christians today. Yet tradition preserved a saying of Jesus which stated the complete opposite of what Paul taught above. Jesus: [8]

Matthew 5:17-20
"Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses those of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Note the complete contradiction in the two passages above. The sentence italicized showed the contradiction even more clearly: Paul is saying "we are not justified by observing the law" and Jesus is saying, in contrast, that "whoever practices the law will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

It is worth mentioning that the tradition Matthew was drawing from is probably authentic as there is an analogous passage in Luke, the gospel imbued most with Pauline theology:

Luke 16:17
"It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the law."

As Christianity ultimately accepted the Pauline view with regards to the law, there had been numerous attempts by later Christian theologians to reconcile the passage in Matthew with their dogma, Jesus statement that he has come to fulfil the law is translated (read: twisted out of all context) as: "I have come to exceed the law, to go beyond it to make it superfluous." Using this interpretation, the passage in Matthew can be made to fit, albeit rather uneasily, into Pauline theology.

The question is this: are the theologians justified in making that interpretation? Many scholars have shown that the Greek word used by Matthew, pleroun, can mean to "fulfil", to "deepen", to "perfect" but never in the sense of going beyond it or making it superfluous. In a nutshell, the Christian theologians has ascribed a meaning to the Greek word which it never had. The only accurate interpretation of Matthew's passage is that Jesus believed his task to be to establish and defend the eternal validity of the law. [9]

We have further historical evidence that the eternal validity of the Torah and its precepts, and not its abrogation (as Paul taught), was what Jesus actually preached; we know that the early "Jewish-Christian" community in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus was led by his brother, James. The evidence show that both James and the original community were thoroughly Jewish in practice. We also have strong evidence that this community led by James, sent out emissaries to oppose the "law-free" mission of Paul. Indeed despite making a huge collection for the Jerusalem Church, Paul was never accepted by the original community of Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem.

The conclusion we can draw here is simple: Paul taught doctrines that were never expounded by the earthly Jesus and doctrines which were in complete contradiction with what Jesus actually taught.

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a.I had originally placed here another difference between Paul and Jesus - in their treatment of women. I cited the difference between Paul's I Corinthians 14:33-35 against Jesus' long conversations with women in (Luke 10:38-42) and John (John 4:1-26). However I am no longer convinced that these two passages represent authentic sayings of Jesus and have thus removed this from my posting.


1.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p412-413
2.Stein, An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism: p178
Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence: p124
3.Armstrong, The First Christian: p99-100
4.Ibid: p129-130
5.Cuppitt & Armstrong, Who Was Jesus?: p86
6.Ibid: p86
7.Ibid: p87
8.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p182
9.Guignebert, Jesus: p306
Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p183

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