St. Paul’s Dogmatic Idea Defined Christianity for Two Millenia

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Most Swiss Christians don’t believe the story behind Easter and Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians. Nevertheless, over the millennia it has been considered as an essential belief in Christianity and it all started with St. Paul. He weaved his dogma well and it is in the New Testament:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (Corinthian 15:12-19)

This was perhaps one of the best examples of a dogmatic presentation and false choices. He states that everyone who believes in life after death ought to believe in resurrection of Jesus and vice versa. He also links resurrection to belief in God. In other words, he has prioritized and dogmatized his belief in resurrection of Jesus. He leaves no room for discussion, whether Jesus actually was put on the cross or if he died on the cross, or if he was resuscitated rather than resurrected, granting that the first century people did not know about resuscitation like the 21st century people know, as they are daily witness to CPR in modern hospitals.

St. Paul was able to convince his followers of the primacy of his ideas about resurrection. In so doing he was able to successfully change the religion of Jesus, a religion of compassion and continuation of Judaism, into a religion about passion and death of Jesus on the cross and rising again on the third day. The paradigm of Judaism was fundamentally changed into Original Sin and vicarious atonement. He, put, salvation in easy reach, in modern terminology, he put it on sale, you just had to believe in an idea that Jesus died for your sins and you were saved. Everything else was secondary. The resurrection became the central creed of Christianity.

It was not that he was able to convince all the Christians but enough that his group eventually won out and dominated all other understandings of Jesus and his teachings or Christianity.

Prof. Bart Ehrman explains the different groups in his book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, and here is a video presentation:

Over the centuries resurrection became the lens through which all the details of the Christian religion were examined.

When the 27 books of the New Testament were chosen, they chose those books that supported resurrection narrative and other gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas that did not help the narrative were rejected: Athanasius of Alexandria: the Compiler of the New Testament.

Many of us have known this emphasis on resurrection, but, it struck me as an epiphany today, while reading a book: Q, the Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus.

The author explains on page 73 of the paperback edition from 2008:

Perhaps the most striking difference between Q and he Synoptic Gospels is its lack of an explicit narration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Before the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas scholars took for granted that Jesus’ death was the one critical datum that every early Christian Gospel writer would narrate and interpret. For that reason, few before the 1950s dared to call Q a ‘gospel,’ since it lacked what was deemed essential to any ‘gospel,’ Q could only be conceived as a supplement, intended for those who already knew the story of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. This in turn presupposed a hierarchy of Christian beliefs — those beliefs that were essential to Christian belief and others that were derivative or supplementary.

Another way to examine the continued emphasis on resurrection is: 25% of Christians do not believe in resurrection and Queen’s former chaplain calls them non-Christians.

After the passage of two thousand years, modern scholarship is now finally challenging the very basis of Christianity from so many angles:

  1. 65 Reasons to Believe Jesus Did Not Die on the Cross
  2. BBC Documentary: Did Jesus Die On the Cross?
  3. BBC Documentary: The Lost Gospels
  4. The Gospel According to Thomas
  5. History Channel Documentary: Banned from the Bible, Secrets of the Apostles
  6. Dan Barker’s Challenge to Every Christian about Resurrection and Ascension
  7. Has the Top Christian Apologist, William Lane Craig Stepped on a Landmine by Searching Historical Adam
  8. Prof. Bart Ehrman: Is Paul the Founder of Christianity?

When St. Paul gave his followers a wrong idea as the most fundamental, billions were misled over the millennia. The fundamental ideas are the gate keepers for the rest of our understanding and sanity. No wonder the creed of Islam gives us two very profound fundamentals that there is only One God and Muhammad is His prophet.

There is also a Quranic verse how the fundamental, the Arabic word Muhaqqim, defines our understanding of the whole of the scripture, the literal word of Allah, the Quran: After Monotheism, the Two Most Seminal Verses of the Quran.

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