Og Mandino, a late 20th century motivational author and speaker, wrote a book called The Greatest Salesman about Saint Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. In the book, Mandino pays tribute to Paul’s marketing skills in reference to how Paul spread the kerygma of Jesus. Trouble is, for me, calling Paul the greatest salesmen ever is actually not appropriate, but highly derogatory. What I mean is that Paul really, like the Paul in the Last Temptation of Christ, created the Jesus he was selling. Perhaps it was what the people wanted and or needed but the message that Paul was selling is and was a perversion of what Jesus was actually about. As to Paul’s motivation for doing this, well that s up for debate. The first motivation is tied to the tradition that Paul was a pharisee, the ancient sect of Jewish legalists. In other words, Jewish fundamentalists. Jesus said something to the effect that he came not to destroy The Law, but to fulfill it. As I mentioned in an earlier page, The Law was man’s covenant with God; man being represented by Abraham.
A covenant with the supernatural in ancient times required a blood sacrifice. The longstanding tradition of the sacred king discussed by Frazier in The Golden Bough is the most common form of blood sacrifice. The old testament says that God demanded the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, Isaac, but God relented and supplied a ram instead. However, in reality, that sacrifice was not sufficient and, according to the New Testament tradition, God supplied his own son, Jesus, to be the Sacred King, thus fulfilling the covenant. By fulfilling the covenant, Jesus also gained humanity it s freedom from Original Sin. That is what the Resurrection is all about. According to Jesus’ own words, what he did during the Resurrection is something we all can do. Original Sin came about during God’s creation of Adam and Eve. When they rebelled and ate the forbidden fruit, God drove them out of Eden and doomed them to a mortal life with no hope of anything beyond. Resurrection is not part of traditional Judaism. Traditional Judaism basically sees death as the end and there is nothing beyond it, but there have been various sects like the Sadducee who did believe in some form of Resurrection. The Christian doctrine of Resurrection makes Resurrection a sort of reward that has been given to humanity by God because of the sacrifice of his son. This is a major misconception and perversion of what Jesus taught and how he understood himself.
As the fulfillment of The Law, Jesus saw himself as the first of humanity freed from Original Sin. In a way, it would be more appropriate to describe what Jesus achieved at the Resurrection as not as his coming back from the dead, but rather his not dying at all. Yes, his body may have died in some sense, but the essential Jesus did not die and the essential us will not die either. In direct opposition to the legalist tradition, Paul expresses some very radical ideas of Christian freedom, most especially in his letter to the Galatians. While in many of his other letters Paul demands that his followers abide by some of the rules from the Jewish law (such as the rules for women in church and for homosexuality) in Galatians he talks about how, in Christ, there is no male or female as well as freedom from such religious requirements like circumcision. In fact, in Galatians and some of his other letters, Paul is very critical of those Christian evangelists he calls Judaizers: those who would keep much of the Jewish legal tradition in Christianity. I often wonder whether Paul was actually two different people, schizophrenic, or morally conflicted. Whichever it was, it is very hard to resolve the contradictions existing in the same person without resorting to some sort of psychological disorder.
The last thing that i want to address here is the idea that Paul, or someone else, created this Pauline version of Christianity. Why would someone do that? I have one idea that is somewhat inspired by the Passover Plot conspiracy theory. This theory argues that Jesus never died on the cross, that his followers spirited his body away, or that he was drugged somehow to fake death. What if Pauline Christianity was a conspiracy by certain Roman citizens to create a symbol system that was so powerful it would unite a somewhat fractured Roman Empire? (See my definition of religion) This conspiracy would go a long way to explaining a great deal including that battle against the so-called heresies. More on that in future posts.