Was Paul the founder of Christianity?
It’s a clever claim, but superficial. It’s a little bit like saying that Shakespeare invented the English language. Shakespeare crafted our language in many ways that will never be surpassed, but what he inherited was already exceedingly rich.
What part did Paul play?
Paul was an ardent and intelligent speaker, and a great preacher. He did much to set up and organise churches throughout Asia Minor. He also created key Christian teachings on the nature of redemption and baptism.
First and foremost, though, Paul saw himself as the servant of Jesus Christ. He regarded himself as the last of the apostles, called personally by Jesus. His role was to proclaim Jesus as the Christ to non-Jews, just as Peter did to Jews. Each was responsible for the same good news.
Paul’s focus was the person of Jesus, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2.2) It was Christ who shaped his inner vision, “It is no longer I that live but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2.20) And Jesus was to be his ultimate reward, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Phil 3.8) That desire was fulfilled when Paul was beheaded in Rome in A.D. 67.
Paul was a bright and shining light, a lens that focused and projected a brilliant picture of Jesus Christ that still shines in our time. He was a peerless proponent of Christianity but never, in his wildest dreams, its founder.
Father Neil Vaney
This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 3, ‘Jesus Christ’ referencing page 17 – 18. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 3’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.