How did Paul of Tarsus transform the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth from an outgrowth of Judaism into a separate spiritual tradition?How did Paul of Tarsus transform the teaching of Jesus of...

How did Paul of Tarsus transform the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth from an outgrowth of Judaism into a separate spiritual tradition?

How did Paul of Tarsus transform the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth from an outgrowth of Judaism into a separate spiritual tradition?

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Saul of Tarsus, later renamed "Paul" , was a Jew who identified himself as a Pharisee. He first appears on the scene in the Bible as a persecutor of early Christians in the book of Acts, chapter 7. He was present at the stoning of Stephen. While on his way to Damascus to ferret out and punish more Christians, he had a life-changing vision in which Jesus appeared to him and blinded him. He went to Damascus where after 3 days, the scales fell off his eyes and he was converted. He spends some time with Christians and several years later, sets out on his first missionary journey. He is known as the apostle to the Gentiles.

Up until this time, the Jews were God's only chosen people, called out by God and separated from other peoples. Although the coming of Messiah had been predicted for centuries, when Jesus came and claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, the Jews rejected his claim. They persecuted him for what they believed was blasphemy, claiming to be God. Jesus taught that God was a triune being consisting of Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout their history, the Jews believed that God was one, and they did not understand this theology, so naturally they did not accept Jesus as God.

After Jesus was crucified, his apostles were told to go out and preach the gospel to all nations, baptising people in his name. Paul, therefore, was converted after Jesus had already ascended to heaven after the resurrection. While Paul was in Damascus, he had a vision where Jesus not only spoke to him, but also showed him heaven. After this, Paul became convinced of the truth that Jesus was teaching, and was a gung-ho apostle for the gospel of Jesus. He traveled all over the Middle East converting people and growing "the church of Jesus Christ" in the first century, and it was during this time that Jesus' teachings became a separate spiritual tradition.

Jews and Christians believe the same things except when it comes to Jesus. Christians believe he is the Messiah, and Jews do not. Jews believe Messiah is still to come.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An absolutely fascinating question:  one that disturbed me, in fact.  I believe, however, that my unease is a result of the wording, though, instead of what you are truly wanting to know.  Namely, I don't agree that Paul "transformed" (i.e. changed in a profound way) the teachings of Jesus.  Being a Roman Catholic, that sounds like sacrilege to me. 

As I think more deeply on the subject, I think that it is only the actual word "transform" that truely bothered me.  In fact, if the question read, "How did Paul of Tarsus expand upon the teaching of Jesus..." I would be fine with the whole thing.  Paul did expand that teaching of Jesus Christ and deliver the Word (and is still delivering the Word through the Bible) to countless early Christians. 

The term "outgrowth of Judaism" is also an interesting concept to consider.  Generally, I agree with this.  Jesus was a Jew living in Israel, basically following the law to the letter (with a few pertinent exceptions).  So, yes, many early followers were originally Jewish.  Paul, of course, considered himself to be the "Apostle to the Gentiles."

Hmmm, but Paul creating a "separate spiritual tradition"?  I maintain that it was Jesus himself that created this separate spiritual tradition.  Namely, Jesus did that in Matthew 16:18 at the last supper when he said, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."  My view is that Paul avidly proclaimed that new spiritual tradition to the very world!  But the creator was Jesus, not Paul.