The tale of two Christianities

After Jesus died two quite different versions of Christianity developed. For the first seven years after his death a very Jewish version of Christianity ruled the roost. It began on Pentecost the year that Jesus died, the main purpose of it being to convince the Jews that Jesus really was the Messiah. Just the use of Jesus’ name caused amazing miracles, the purpose of which was to prove to the Jews that “God has glorified his servant Jesus,” Acts 3:6, 13.

But then, seven years after Jesus’ death, a very different Christianity was started by Jesus, with a very different purpose, through Paul. For the next three years Paul received direct revelations from Jesus, totally independent of the other apostles. “I did not consult any man,” Paul wrote in Galatians 1:16, “nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus,” verse 17.

When the three years were up, now ten years after Jesus’ death, “I (Paul) went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother,”verses 18-19. This was the first time Paul had met with any of the original apostles (or James), and he didn’t meet with them again for another fourteen years (2:1), so for at least that amount of time there were two Christianities in operation that had little contact with, or influence on, each other.

Paul wasn’t impressed with the hierarchy at Jerusalem either: “As for those who seemed to be important – whatever they were makes no difference to me – those men added nothing to my message,” Galatians 2:6. To Paul the reputation of “James, Peter and John” as “pillars” of the church (verse 9) meant nothing. What the heavenly Jesus had taught him, Paul, by revelation (1:12) was far superior to anything the earthly Jesus had taught them. Jesus had given him an entirely new revelation, and to him alone, that totally separated Christianity from Judaism, and from the Jewish version of Christianity that Peter and the other apostles were preaching – witness the clash between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2:11.

The clash highlighted the fact that twenty four years after Jesus’ death it was a tale of two Christianities. But as far as Paul was concerned, the apostles’ version of Christianity was at best “hypocrisy” (2:13), and at worst heresy, because they “were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (verse 14). Paul, therefore, “opposed Peter to his face, because he (Peter) was in the wrong” (verse 11).

It’s not surprising, then, that most of our present Christianity came from Paul.


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