Who started Christianity

Hi! I’m a very ardent Catholic and a zealous follower of the Church, but I came across an argument the other day which I could not make a proper answer to, I guess because I do not know all the facts. Here is the statement:

What Jesus really wanted to do was get Jews back on track to do what they were supposed to be doing. He pretty much figured the world was going to end soon, so people should be getting that old time religion (Judaism) to make right with God. Christianity didn’t become something completely different until Paul and his group started making concessions while letting Gentiles join the club. And it really didn’t take off until Constantine I recognized it as a valid religion in 313 CE.

This man claims that Our Lord was an apocalyptic, and had no interest in evangelizing. Rather it was St Paul who started propagating ‘Christianity’ so called. How do you counter this argument and what are the facts that I can use against him? This is not just to win this argument, its an internet debate and I couldn’t care less, but I would like to know about this in case I have to defend it in earnest.

The guy is right more than he is wrong.

We have no record that Jesus ever approached and ministered to any gentile, though he did (sometimes reluctantly) minister to them if they asked him.

A Canaanite [gentile] woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. [Matt 15:22-28]

It was not Our Lord’s mission to minister to the gentiles. This was entrusted to the Church.

At first, this mission was not clear:

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. [Acts 11:19]

The universal nature of the new Church was made clear to Peter (not Paul) in a vision (Acts 10).

If someone wants to claim that Our Lord’s mission was to complete and perfect the Jewish faith, I would not care to argue (and neither would the Church). The Catholic Church IS the Jewish “church” as it was intended to become.

If someone wants to claim that the inclusion of gentiles into the Church was the work of the Apostles, not of Jesus himself, I would not care to argue (and neither would the Church).

I think Jesus rather clearly taught that he was moving beyond Judaism, for he said the following:*In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)*Plus, it’s nonsense to put Jesus against Paul or the Apostles when he installed them and promised his Spirit to them.

Time and again, Jesus shows how he fulfills that Old Covenant. For instance, in the John 6 discourse he said how they ate manna in the desert in the OT, but he is the new bread of life. He fulfills multiple other prophecies about the chosen one, like the new Lamb. He is from Bethlehem. Isaiah prophecies about the one who would suffer many stripes, and whose clothes would be gambled away. John the Baptist affirms Jesus would usher in a new baptism. Jesus violated Sabbath law. On and on. The OT points away from itself. That’s why the Jews were in expectation of a great king that was to come.

Plus, some of what your friend says is gratuitous, like how Jesus thought the end of the world was imminent. Based on what does he say that? :shrug: And the “take off” argument is irrelevant. Just because Christians were heavily persecuted for 300 years, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. That makes no sense.

So here’s the way I remember it. Jesus told Peter that he was the new boss. Then Paul talked with Peter (and the others) and together they decided that gentiles were welcome to join the club. Without having to, ah, well. Without having to get that bit of surgery. So that got a pass so we got to where we’re at.

Hope that helps.

Peace.

-Trident

And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.

Talking about this really gets into the complicated study of Christology, which is what I teach (mostly).

Some passages in the Bible sound like Jesus thought the world would end soon, but in truth, he said he did not know.

Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only” (Mt. 24:36).

How can God not know when the Second Coming will take place? Because Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He was homoosious with the Father and homoosious with us in all ways but sin. In his humanity, Jesus had no more idea of when the world will end than we do.

I think it’s pretty clear that Jesus wanted EVERYONE to be members of his Church:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).

I do agree that Jesus pretty much confined his ministry to the Jewish people. Why? Because that was the best way to build up his Church, which was to include all, Jews and gentiles. Christ founded Christianity. He founded what is known today as the Catholic Church, the institution with the longest unbroken record in the history of mankind.

“What Jesus really wanted to do…”

Your friend is starting with the assumption that Jesus was not who he said he was, or he has very little knowledge about who he said he was. He’s looking at the “historical Jesus” (quotes intended) but is completely disregarding any faith. Ask him to show that Jesus didnt intend to found the Church and that he never claimed to be God. If he uses scripture at all, it’ll be piecemeal, and it will be ironic because he’ll obviously feel that this part of thr gospel is true, and that part of the gospel is fake, and it all has to do with whether it fits his view of the “historical Jesus.”

Also, a lot of the divinity and kingdom statements are implicit in the text, but are something we dont always pick up on without good studying, because we’re not used to reading it as first-century Jews. It’s easy to miss where Jesus put himself in the place of God, or of the Torah, or of the Sabbath without saying it bluntly (from our perspective, it was certainky blunt to the Jews) if you don’t have that mindset.

The NT also has to be read with the knowledge that the Jews in ancient Palestine were living as part of the Roman Empire. Jesus sometimes makes reference - obliquely - to the Roman Empire, and that is something many people miss.

Psst… you’re forgetting the Syro-Pheonician woman at the well. And the centurian whose son was dying. And the trip to Sidon and Tyre, and to the Decapolis. Not reluctant; not thrust upon Him; not accidental ministry. :wink:

If someone wants to claim that the inclusion of gentiles into the Church was the work of the Apostles, not of Jesus himself, I would not care to argue (and neither would the Church).

And that would be a shame, because it would say that you’re thinking that, when Gentiles started believing, it was the leaders of the Church who first thought, “hey, look! there are all these people out here, too! what was Jesus thinking?!?!? We gotta include them, too!!!” :nope:

Yes, Jesus ministered primarily to the “lost sheep of Israel”… but the “inclusion of Gentiles into the Church” was part of Jesus’ plan – and a portion of His ministry included them!

I assume the friend is basing it on Jesus’ own words, quoted in the first three gospels that were written.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. --Mark 13:30

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
–Matt. 24:34

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
–Matt 16:28

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
–Mark 9:1

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” --Luke 9:27

.

This is always something that’s troubled me. What are we to make of these “failed predictions?”

They are not failed predictions, otherwise Jesus would be a false prophet. Dr. Brant Pitre has given a great talk on Matthew 24; I’ll put a link to that talk below. Jesus is speaking of two distinct events: the destruction of the temple and the second coming (this latter not until the very end). These two events are related, as the destruction of the Temple is a type of the end of the world, but they are also separate events in time.

Dr. Pitre’s talk is here: stpaulcenter.com/studies/audio-lesson/the-destruction-of-the-temple-and-the-end-of-the-world-matthew-chapters-23

Please keep in mind this is part of a series of talks on the gospel of Matthew presented to priests and seminarians. Now is Pitre’s talk the definitive interpretation? I don’t know. But I still truly enjoyed his take on it.

I agree and I’ve heard it put even more strongly. I’ve heard some people say that not only was that the best way for Jesus to build up His Church but that He basically HAD to minister to the Jews first. If He hadn’t of, the Jews wouldn’t want anything to do with Him.

Like you said, His Church was to include all. If the Messiah came, the one spoken of from the line of David, the one promised to the Chosen People and He DID NOT come to the Jewish people first…they never in a million years would’ve accepted Him. The Messiah coming to the Gentiles before the Jewish people first? Probably not one single Jewish person would’ve accepted Him as the Messiah. Instead, most of the earliest Church, (the Apostles, etc.) were Jewish.

I agree. Two events. You are right, not that you need me to tell you that.

assume the friend is basing it on Jesus’ own words, quoted in the first three gospels that were written.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. --Mark 13:30

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
–Matt. 24:34

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
–Matt 16:28

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
–Mark 9:1

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” --Luke 9:27

but

And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come? he answered them, and said: The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.

I think these three, at least, were fulfilled in the martyrdom of St. Stephen in Acts 7.

What Jesus really wanted to do was get Jews back on track to do what they were supposed to be doing.

What Jesus really wanted to do was to save all mankind. At least that is what he said. He came to do the will of his Father which was to be the Messiah/Redeemer for the whole world. On the night he died he prayed, “I have other sheep …”

In the Old Testament, when God promised to Abraham that his children(seed) would number as the sands of the sea shore and stars in the heavens, he wasn’t just referring to the Jewish people, but all mankind … the gentiles as well. For they too are Abraham’s desendents born of his seed of faith. So from the very beginning, the gentiles were included in the plan of God thru Abraham. The three non Jewish kings at the nativity of Jesus point to this.

The gentile mission was predicted in the old Testament, for example:
Hosea 2:23
At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’"

Jesus himself sended the apostles to make everyone his disciplines.

About the Kingdom prediction:

Luke 17:20-21

The Coming of the Kingdom of God
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you."

You see the Kingdom is already here, not a future prediction and with Pentecost it became clearly visible. The Kingdom = The Church

He did not approach her to minister to her. He wanted a cup of water. Had she simply given him the water and no backtalk, we have no reason to think anything would have come of it. And I think “minister” may be too strong a term - he did not heal her or forgive her sins.

And the centurian whose son was dying.

He approached Jesus. I said Jesus never ministered to a gentile who did not approach him first. It is true that we have no record of Jesus giving any pushback, as he did with the Cananite woman.

And the trip to Sidon and Tyre, and to the Decapolis.

Hello??? Diaspora! There would have been a sizable Jewish population in these gentile towns, as well as every other gentile town (and the same holds true today - lots of Jews live in Portland). There is no account of Jesus ministering or preaching to gentiles in these towns.

And that would be a shame, because it would say that you’re thinking that, when Gentiles started believing, it was the leaders of the Church who first thought, “hey, look! there are all these people out here, too! what was Jesus thinking?!?!? We gotta include them, too!!!”

When the gentiles began to seek him out, Jesus knew his time had come:

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." [John 12:20-23]

When the gentiles start to get on-board, it’s time for Jesus to leave and for the Church to take on his earthly ministry.

I guess his argument does boil down to picking what fits his theory and discarding those parts that don’t as ‘modifications’ that were made to appeal to Gentiles.
Perhaps I could ask him how he knows for certain what Jesus said and what was put in his mouth by later writers? And show him how including the Gentiles into the Church was not a new idea to Jews and we already have prophecies of it in the Old Testament.

All in all it seems quite a pathetic argument against Christianity which it tries to debunk by ignoring the data and skipping over problems it can’t solve.

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