How did Paul influence Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
That there was a wide divide between what Paul taught and what Christianity taught kind of died out with the work of E.P. Sanders and Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Nevertheless, never underestimate the ability of internet atheists who don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus to fully embrace resurrecting bad ideas about Jesus. Such is the case with John Campbell.
For instance, he says Paul’s theology included ideas of original sin and man needing to turn to Jesus through faith in His resurrection for salvation. He says there is no good evidence outside of Paul’s letters that anyone believed such things before Paul wrote. He adds that many critical New Testament scholars believe Paul invented them.
First, we wait to hear what these writings were that would have existed before Paul wrote his letters. There are some scholars who can date the Gospels before that, but I have no reason to think Campbell would accept that.
Second, he says that some apologists point to 1 Cor. 15:3 as predating Paul, which is the passage of Christ died, buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures. He says there is no good reason to believe it did not originate from Paul. No good reason at all, except, you know, the language of passed on and received which refers to oral tradition, the cadence being that of a creed, and the usage of non-Pauline words in there.
Third, he does not tell us which critical scholars it is that think that Paul invented these ideas. I think we know why.
Besides that, if Paul invented these ideas and changed Christianity, why is that not reflected in the Gospels which is dated later? The Gospels do not address issues that are being talked about in Paul’s letters many times. In many surprising cases, they don’t really have a lot of theology. Consider the resurrection accounts. Throughout Mattew, you find Him pointing to prophetic fulfillment over and over. Get to the resurrection and there’s nothing, not even a single verse of Scripture cited. The resurrection is not explained in terms of atonement or anything like that.
With Paul’s conversion, Campbell makes a big deal about Paul saying the gospel was revealed in Him instead of to Him.
To begin with, while it is fewer, there are some translations that do say “to me” instead of “in me.” Second, even if it is that, what of it? This simply means there was a subjective component which is true. I am objectively in front of my laptop writing this, but I am subjectively experiencing it.
He also says we only have Paul’s word on His revelation which is convenient if you’re wanting to fabricate a revelation. No reason given why Paul would want to do that, at least at this point. It’s not like from a worldly perspective he was gaining a lot. From a theological perspective, if he was wrong, he was cutting himself off from YHWH by identifying with a blasphemer.
So just starting off, this isn’t looking too convincing on Campbell’s part.
We’ll continue another time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)