Did Paul actually damage the early church?

St. Paul is revered to us as the former Pharisee, who was present for Stephens martyrdom, but on the road to Damascus while persecuting others of the early church was blinded and chosen by Christ to spread his message. This is all nice and all, but has anyone else realized the conflict this created in the original church? You had Jewish Christians, lead by James, the brother of Jesus, who remained loyal to Judaism yet acknowledging Jesus as the messiah. Then you had Paul who had very different ideas, who basically created the Christianity we know today. The majority of the New Testament letters are his, and in some ways I think to myself, “this guy never even knew Jesus”. Now Jesus never said he wanted to split from Judaism, in fact he only came to fulfill the prophets and spread the new covenant. Had Jerusalem not been crushed in 70 A.D. it is very possible Jewish Christianity would have survived. However we are left with this Christianity created by what some would call a rebel in the Christian movement, baptizing gentiles, etc. In fact in the Acts he has an argument with James about this aspect, thus who really says Paul was right when he never even was around for Christ’s teachings, nor did he believe it until his “conversion”. I feel like it is possible that the fact that Paul was educated and able to keep his writings to live out to this very day may have done the church a dis service. Lets face it, the letters of the other apostles, James, Peter, John, Jude, never say anything about leaving the faith Jesus was born too but trusting in Christ. Plus we have very little in written letters of the other apostles. Does it seem this way to anyone else ever or am I wrong?

Paul understood the New Covenant perhaps better than many; there still is a giant difference between the Old and New after all. His particular explanations of the way it works out may well leave more room for confusion, however, in personal/private reading and interpretation of Scripture, but the Church has never been confused by it, or found conflict between Paul’s theology and that of Jesus or other NT figures. Some of the specific controversies that arose -and were resolved-during those early times were already examples of the light of the gospel, and it’s radical nature, simply being brought into greater clarity.

Well this is a really deep thought. I’m not so sure of it all myself. All I can say is that if it wasn’t for Paul would the gentiles have been invited to the party? I don’t know. And if not, would Constantine have given Christianity the leg up it needed at that time? And if not, would we all be worshiping Jupiter or, um, Neptune (sorry, I couldn’t help it)?

I guess these are all strange thoughts, but really. They could have been, right?

Since Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit and imparted apostolic authority by Jesus himself, the only conclusion one must draw is that, unfortunately, you’re wrong, as were the Judaizers.

I think he misunderstood some of Jesus’ words that were told to him…and added his own thoughts to them that Jesus never intended.
So I agree with you…what we have today is more what Paul thought rather than what Jesus thought.


Yet if God is really all that worried about the change He would have done something, right? So what we have might actually be what He wanted. Well sort of. Well who knows?



I’ve thought somewhat the same. Also, are we to follow each and every word Paul said? I think we need to look to what Jesus said more. Did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul on exactly what to say and are we to follow everything Paul said as coming from Jesus?

Protestants sure like him sometimes better than Jesus, in my opinion.

This is a curious thread.

I have often wondered about Jewish-Christianity (known as Messianic Jews here and now in the 21st Century), and what is means.

Should we be following the Old Laws, or not? Because Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law, does that mean we must only follow Him? It can be a tad confusing for the newcomer to Catholicism/Christianity (same thing, really).

Something I never understood is: why would Jesus establish his church on earth as the sole teaching authority, only to then recruit someone from the outside to be the main messenger?

I do not believe that Paul damaged the Church. Did Martin Luther damage the Church?

You need to have the correct interpretation of Paul, otherwise it can lead to confusion in the Church.

(2Pe 3:14 ESV) Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

(2Pe 3:15 ESV) And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

(2Pe 3:16 ESV) as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

(2Pe 3:17 ESV) You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

(2Pe 3:18 ESV) But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Jesus personally came to Paul and commissioned him. It’s wrong to say Paul never met him. Paul was actually, in some ways, the most Jewish of all those selected by Jesus. His writings are the only remaining writings written by an actual Pharisee. He was extensively trained in Jewish laws and scriptures. He was personally selected to evangelize the gentiles by Jesus, and in full agreement with Peter and Cephas that he would do so. This wasn’t new, it was the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, and I think it was Paul’s extensive knowledge of scriptures that actually allowed him to understand this extremely well. Let’s not forget that it was Peter who declared that gentiles were not bound by Jewish law, and Peter who received personal revelation that no foods were unclean. Any confrontation between Peter and Paul described in Galatians wasn’t a dispute over theology and morals, but or over reducing scandal. You can see that Paul actually learned from his experience in that confrontation in his letter to the Romans, in which he himself cautions the “strong” not to eat idol food around the “weak” if it would be a stumbling block for them.

The destruction of Jerusalem wasn’t just a normal event in the course of history, either. You say “If Jerusalem wasn’t destroyed…” I admit, it’s a curious thought experiment, but Jesus personally predicted Jerusalem’s sack, and Christian tradition has long seen it as divine judgment for the murder of Jesus and persecution of Christians, a type of the end of the world, and a definitive end to the Old Covenant. This wasn’t just any old thing that happened in the course of history. It was part of God’s plan.

Anyway, Paul didn’t change Christianity. It was Jesus’ intent. The kingdom was to be preached to the Jew first, then the Greek.

I’m not sure Paul was the main messenger. He was certainly a prolific writer, though. It’s interesting that Jesus selected fisherman, tax collectors, and other working men to preach to the Jews, and a Pharisee to teach to the Greeks. I almost want to go up to Jesus and be like, “Excuse me, Lord, but if it was me, I would have done this differently…” Then I have to remember I don’t have his wisdom. To be honest, after pondering it, his choice makes a lot of sense to me.

Ask any devout Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, the Gospels hold a higher place than the rest of the NT writings. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the four evangelists. Jesus appeared to Saul/Paul because he was a hard-headed Pharisee and a threat to Christians. He was on his way to Damascus to wreak havoc on the Christian community. This is a case of your worst enemy becoming your best ally.

There are a number of issues, both factual and theological in your post. I’d like to address all of them eventually, but will focus on two in this reply.

The above is a factual error based upon the mistaken belief that Jewish Christians were all killed off in the destruction of Jerusalem. That is simply untrue. The accurate historical narrative shows that the Jewish Christians all left Jerusalem during the campaign leading to the siege and sack of Jerusalem. They followed Jesus’ prophecy and advice in Matthew 24:16 and had fled from Judea to Pella and other places. (Reported by Josephus, Eusebius and a number of ancient sources.) James, the leader of the Jerusalem church had already been martyred in 64 AD. The growing persecution and impending destruction which was understood to be certain based upon Jesus’ prophecy led Christians to leave well before it happened. In fact, Antioch in Syria became the de facto centre of Christianity as is clear from the Book of Acts.

Who says Paul was right?

Peter and James. They both agreed with Paul, and Peter actually had had a dream to the same effect and had already baptized Gentiles into the community. The question was whether those Gentiles had to fulfill every requirement of the Mosaic Law - including circumcision.

Recall that Peter was the one on whom Jesus had conferred authority, the rock (Petra) upon whom he would build his a Church. Peter was at the Council of Jerusalem and had the final word on what the Church would do.

This takes us to the question of the Mosaic Laws and what they signified.

The Law of Moses was not the Law given to Moses, but rather Moses’ (and the people’s) responses or pledge to God regarding what they would do to fulfill their end of the covenant agreement. It wasn’t God ordained, it was man ordained. Moses wrote them, not God. Recall that a covenant is an agreement, contract or covenant between two parties that essentially makes them “one body” and unites them in every possible way.

When the covenant on Mt. Sinai, between God and the people of Israel, was in the process of being ratified, God gave to Moses the Ten Commandments (God’s definitive word on what he expected as part of the covenant with Israel.) While Moses was receiving these, the people were off making the golden calf and showing they would have difficulty abiding by any promise they would make. Moses threw the tablet of the commandments down and broke them AND replaced them with the “Second Law” (Deuteronomy) which would take the place of the original terms of the covenant given by God. In essence, that was Moses and the people saying to God, “We will have trouble living up to the ‘spirit’ of the Law as embodied in the Ten Commandments, but we promise to live by the ‘letter’ of it which Moses will write on our behalf. Moses will write up the contract and we’ll agree to do everything stipulated in it.”

God agreed to the compromised bargain but would have preferred that the Israelites could “embody” or “incarnate” the principles contained in the Ten Commandments rather than in the extensive set of minutiae detailed by Moses. Jesus was God’s answer to this crippled covenant. He would embody the Law (the original Law as written by the finger of God in the tablets) perfectly, and by his sacrifice on the cross provide the means (Holy Spirit and grace) by which every human being could fulfill THAT Law.

The old covenant based upon the human precepts was set aside as insufficient because someone could do everything contained in those minute details (every dot and tittle) yet completely fail to live up to the whole point of them (the Pharisees were prime examples of this.)

So the new covenant founded on the original Law God gave to Moses would be fulfilled. This is why the niggly details of the Mosaic Law would be abandoned by the Church because it would be founded on the original intent and God-ordained Law (very dot and tittle of that) written on tablets (hearts) of stone by the blood and Word of God himself (Jesus.) “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20)

Paul, as Pharisee, understood the events of the Old Testament better than anyone. Read his Epistles and his speeches in Acts. He knew what the significance of Jesus to the Jews was because he knew Jesus in Spirit and in Truth; not physically perhaps, but personally.

God is spirit, [not a set of principles, no matter how extensive] and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

Phew, I was afraid you wouldn’t approve. :slight_smile: :cool:

But that aside, one small clarification please: when you say that you’re catholic, do you mean ICWR (in communion with Rome) or catholic in a more general sense?

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