My struggle with Saint Paul and the Gospel

Saint Paul is among the greatest Apostles, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and this is not an attack on him, but some issues I have relating him.
He had a very large conversion for sure, something did happen to him on his way to Demascus. I don’t doubt this.
My issue I struggle with is his theology, it seems he was at odds with the rest of the Apostles who actually knew Christ on earth and yes Acts 15 seems to make it sound like all of this was settled peacefully but in Galatians it seems a darker picture of the Council actually ensued. In many of Paul’s letters I see someone genuine for sure about what he is preaching but at the same time somewhat prideful, calling the Gospel at some points my Gospel. I often wonder if the sect Paul was proclaiming was actually much more at odds than what we are introduced too with the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem under James. It would help if more writings from the other Apostles were produced. In a real sense more than half of the New Testament is by Paul or someone who was closely associated with him. It bothers me because it seems our entire faith is built on Paul’s interpretation of the Gospel and there were competing views among even the Apostles who followed Christ on earth. This has always been my struggle, what if following Christ is true but Saint Paul distorted the actual message of the Gospel?

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One theory is that when Paul said “my Gospel”, he was referring to Luke. Accordingly, he didn’t say it to set himself apart from other Apostles.

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I appreciate your response but I have absolutely no idea what this means in any way nor what it has to do with my question.

Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

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Be at peace. It’s not about the number of words or the number of books. We are blessed that Paul wrote so much, and that some of his letters were preserved through those difficult early years of Christianity.

It is not an “either-or” choice. We aren’t choosing Paul and neglecting Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (or Peter and the others). It is, rather, a “both-and” or “all-and” situation, in which we only gain by having more perspectives.

The three synoptic evangelists wrote mostly about the life history of Jesus. John added some beautiful and profound discourses on God’s love and our salvation through Jesus Christ.

Paul familiarity with the Jewish traditions and Scriptures shines in some of his writings, e.g., his letter to the Hebrews. He helped us to see the Gospel in the context of salvation history (from the first sin of Adam and Eve, through the covenants of the Old Testament, ultimately leading up to the coming of our Lord and Savior).

Paul also liked to travel, knew the languages and customs of other lands, and was on fire with the Gospel. Without Paul, it’s possible that Christianity would have remained in the Holy Land as a minor Jewish cult, and may have been extinguished there by Jewish and Roman persecution. Thank God that Paul (and others) took it on the road!

Paul was also a problem-solver. Many of his letters addressed specific difficulties in different Christian communities. He preached the Gospel and showed the people in those communities (and us today) how to understand the Gospel and apply it in their varied cultures and situations.

I think it was part of God’s wise plan to recruit Paul, using Paul’s strengths, and minimizing his weaknesses, for the greater glory of God.


By the way, welcome to Catholic Answers Forums!

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Before coming to that conclusion other questions would need to be settled first. I would ask where Paul got his teachings from. And did the four gospel writers get anything out of Paul’s letters that influenced their gospels.

There’s no conflict between the four gospels, Paul’s letters, and other NT letters. That’s not because everything in the NT is based on ‘Paul’s gospel’.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on the phrase “My Gospel”

The word Gospel simply means “The good news”. I could have the gospel of telling my wife I got a raise. It seems odd to our ears because “Gospel” has taken on a very specific meaning within the context of a Christian society. However, all that is happening here is that Paul is telling people this amazing good news that he has for them: That Jesus Christ is Lord, died for your sins, and can redeem you!

It is coincidental that you would write this today, for I believe God prepared the answer for you in advance of your question with today’s first reading at mass.

Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel
not where Christ has already been named,
so that I do not build on another’s foundation,
but as it is written:

Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.
Rom. 15:20

The USCCB website has this comment on that verse:

I aspire: Paul uses terminology customarily applied to philanthropists. Unlike some philanthropists of his time, Paul does not engage in cheap competition for public acclaim. This explanation of his missionary policy is to assure the Christians in Rome that he is also not planning to remain in that city and build on other people’s foundations.


There are a number of books that attempt to reconstruct the earliest history of the Christian Church, in the twenty years or so between the Crucifixion (now usually dated to either 30 or 33) and Paul’s first travels outside the Middle East (no later than 50). I can warmly recommend Hengel’s book, and Barnett’s – which I just started reading yesterday – looks promising as well. Also it’s much shorter, barely 200 pages. Both books set out to answer the question implicit in your OP, What were the similarities and differences between the Gospel that Paul preached to the Gentiles and the Gospel that Peter and the other Apostles were preaching at the same time, mainly to Jewish Christians? What had happened to explain that?


The thorn in his side! He begged the Lord to remove it three times, all to no avail. This reveals at least part of the cross he bore. None of us completely conceals our crosses - some being obvious even to the casual observer, while others are noticed only by family and friends.

Examine his pre-conversion life and his personality - his cross if you will - is revealed.

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What does that have to do with the question? Why do people post random clichés in response to questions?


If St. Paul distorted the message, it would mean that the gates of Hell had prevailed. Or at least that’s how I read it.


Jesus allowed a man that distorted the gospel to write so many books of the new testament, preach, and be canonized a saint.

If Paul had been speaking wrongly he had Peter for example to correct him. In one of the letters of Peter (If the books are written by Apostle Peter that is) he mentions Paul. If Paul wasn’t listening to any correction for example, couldn’t Peter have mentioned in one of his letters “Stay away from that Paul that calls himself an Apostle.”

2 Peter 3:15-16 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

15 And account the longsuffering of our Lord, salvation; as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you:

16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

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Not sure where you are getting this idea. Both Paul and Acts tells us that Paul consulted with the apostles regarding the gospel he was preaching, and not only did they confirm his gospel, but they commended him to go out to evangelize the Gentiles. I think what you are struggling with is that the general epistles generally are writing to a specific audience to correct a specific behavioral issue (Hebrews, 2 Peter, the letters of 2-3 John, and Jude, for example) or to give general guidance for living the Christian life (James) 1 John. None of these letters were meant to be systematic expositions of the gospel. Similarly, the gospels give us the narrative accounts of Jesus ministry, tell us the who, what and when of Jesus time on earth, without expounding upon what it means to the Church. Again, there was no systematic discussion in these works that tell us what Jesus ministry means. Paul is the author who actually brings that to fruition, in Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians, and most fully in Romans which appears to be Paul’s systematic treatise on the nature of justification.

Not quite true. Paul wrote about a quarter of the New Testament. John wrote to us about another quarter of the New Testament. However, we have writings from two of the Lord’s brothers, Matthew another apostle, Luke a traveling companion of both Peter and Paul, two epistles from Peter, and Mark another apostle. And oh by the way, Luke and Peter both refer to Paul’s writings as scripture.

My hope is that St. Paul and Jesus knew each other. There are a few passages from the Bible that might imply this. The big one is…2 Corinthians 5:16

Honestly, I love St. Paul’s writings. He has done a great deal to bring me to Christ. I also empathize in many ways with St. Paul.

It’s his cross, but it’s his strength. He can relate to people. Christ’s words spread Christianity, but St. Paul’s words were needed too.

On a side note, to avoid being flagged here when I want to say something, I’ve often been able to find St. Paul saying it. Seriously, 2000 years later St. Paul’s words are still pretty controversial. Is this not part of the reason why and how Christianity spread?!

Have you been listening to Islamic/Unitarian/Protestant/other non-Christian propaganda in regards to Paul?

I don’t think St. Paul dominates as much as you’re thinking. Remember, he got a late start because he didn’t actually go around with Jesus on earth. Peter and James might not have written as much as Paul, but they were actually going around with Jesus, having experiences with him firsthand, saying and doing things that are described in the Gospels. And frankly, if anybody could be said to have the greatest influence on our theology, it was probably that gifted theologian John.

Paul’s job was to evangelize and write letters. God called him for that task. God would not have zapped a man off his horse and called him and so forth if that man had not been the right one to do the job for God.

Besides, Paul didn’t say anything that out of line with the other Apostles. James died pretty quickly. Paul and Peter had their differences over things such as eating with Gentiles, but while that was major at the time, I think it’s pretty clear Paul had the right perspective and it’s hardly a concern for us now.

I think you should be at peace and not worry about it.


Yeah, I had trouble with the writings of St. Paul for years because in parts they seem very abrasive. You can almost picture this little red-faced in-your-face kind of guy arguing and challenging. Nowadays when something Paul says bothers me, I know that’s a sign I need to think about it more and try to understand why it bothers me, what the context was and what God was actually trying to say, via Paul.

Another thing: Jesus picked Peter to be the first leader of his church. Paul’s not a unifying leader. He’s a pot-stirrer. That’s his role. If he were around today, he’d be one of those Cardinals who’s always saying controversial and challenging things. Peter would be the Pope who brings everybody together but every once in a while needs a little jolt from Paul the Cardinal.


Paul’s account in the letter to the Galatians seems like it wasn’t as nice as Acts does. He seems to have a hostile look of the Apostles or leaders actually.
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not 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 believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:1‭-‬10

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