Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity

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Overview

This fascinating examination of the earliest years of Christianity reveals sharply competing ideas about the significance of Jesus and his teachings and shows how the man we call St. Paul shaped Christianity as we know it today.

Historians know virtually nothing about the two decades following the crucifixion of Jesus, when his followers regrouped and began to spread his message. During this time the man we know as the apostle Paul joined the ...

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Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity

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Overview

This fascinating examination of the earliest years of Christianity reveals sharply competing ideas about the significance of Jesus and his teachings and shows how the man we call St. Paul shaped Christianity as we know it today.

Historians know virtually nothing about the two decades following the crucifixion of Jesus, when his followers regrouped and began to spread his message. During this time the man we know as the apostle Paul joined the movement and began to preach to the gentiles.

Using the oldest Christian documents that we have—the letters of Paul—as well as other early Christian sources, historian and scholar James Tabor reconstructs the origins of Christianity. Tabor reveals that the familiar figures of James, Peter, and Paul sometimes disagreed fiercely over everything from the meaning of Jesus’ message to the question of whether converts must first become Jews. Tabor shows how Paul separated himself from Peter and James and introduced his own version of Christianity, which would continue to develop independently of the gospel message that Jesus, James, and Peter preached.

Paul and Jesus gives us a new and deeper understanding of Paul as it illuminates the fascinating period of history when Christianity was born out of Judaism and became the religion we recognize today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this compulsively readable exploration of the tangled world of Christian origins, Tabor (The Jesus Dynasty) vividly recreates the frenetic and fraught attempts by the earliest followers of Jesus to maintain his teachings and keep his memory alive. The followers of James, who was the brother of Jesus and likely the author of the New Testament letter that bears his name, continued to live as Jews, observing Torah and worshipping in the Jerusalem Temple while honoring Jesus as their martyred Teacher and Messiah. This group was quickly displaced by Paul, whose theological teachings on the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ; the gift of eternal life guaranteed by faith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; and a glorified heavenly reign with Christ when he returns reached a larger, non-Jewish audience because of the more philosophical language and nature. Although Paul has long been acknowledged as the founder of Christianity, Tabor weaves a fascinating story out of close readings of Paul’s letters and the book of Acts, which contains an idealized history of the early movement as well as Paul’s earliest activities on behalf of his teachings, and compellingly illustrates the ways that Christianity is Paul and Paul is Christianity. (Nov.)
Booklist
"Tabor does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul's unique view of Jesus. . . . The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. . . . The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history's great mysteries.
John Shelby Spong

"A fresh, imaginative and insightful treatment of the original years of the Christian faith. It is not as we have been taught through the centuries. It is infinitely more complex and infinitely more exciting. James Tabor makes this clear.”
Booklist (starred review)

"Tabor does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul's unique view of Jesus. . . . The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. . . . The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history's great mysteries."
Barrie Wilson

“This superb, well written book carefully shows just how different Paul’s religion was from that of Jesus and his first followers. . . .A fascinating book, packed with illuminating insights. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal
Renowned scholar of the origins of Christianity, Tabor explains that all was not sweetness and light among early leaders as James, Peter, and Paul argued vehemently over key questions (e.g., should converts first become Jews?), causing Paul to pull away and preach his own brand of the new religion. For serious readers.
Kirkus Reviews
Another entry in the guess-who-Paul-really-was contest. The Apostle Paul has long been a controversial figure to modern Christians, but in recent years, his life and writings have spawned a plethora of books dedicated to reevaluating his role in the Christian faith. Tabor (Religious Studies/Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte; The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity, 2006, etc.) throws his hat into the ring, attempting to define Paul and his version of Jesus Christ against that of the original Jerusalem church, headed by James. The author stresses that the traditional view--that Paul was in harmony with the original apostles, ministering to the gentiles while they ministered to Jews--is a complete fabrication. Instead, he believes that Paul was in direct conflict with James, Peter and the rest of the original Christian church. This conflict was based not just on personality or approach; it spoke to Paul's fundamental understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ, which differed from that taught by the original apostles. It is Paul's understanding of Jesus, Tabor avers, that won the day, coming down to us in Scripture and doctrine. The author blames this historical legacy on a conscious effort by Paul's followers to minimize the influence of James and the Jerusalem church, while promoting Paul's theology. Books of the Bible such as Acts, he explains, were written specifically to present a Paul-focused version of emerging Christianity. Tabor tends to sensationalize tenets of Christian doctrine to highlight his view that Paul's ideas were radical, while also pushing the conspiracy theories (e.g., "process of mythmaking") about New Testament Scriptures that have been covered by such authors as Bart Ehrman. His ultimate claim that Paul saw himself as a second Messiah seems like an inflated reading of the Pauline letters, and it will prove controversial with most Christians.
Booklist (starred review)

"Tabor does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul's unique view of Jesus. . . . The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. . . . The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history's great mysteries."
Booklist
"Tabor does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul's unique view of Jesus. . . . The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. . . . The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history's great mysteries."
John Shelby Spong
"A fresh, imaginative and insightful treatment of the original years of the Christian faith. It is not as we have been taught through the centuries. It is infinitely more complex and infinitely more exciting. James Tabor makes this clear.”
Barrie Wilson
“This superb, well written book carefully shows just how different Paul’s religion was from that of Jesus and his first followers. . . .A fascinating book, packed with illuminating insights. Highly recommended.”
From the Publisher
"Highly recommended to all interested in the historic roots of Christianity, whether or not they are believers. After Tabor, you will never read the NT in quite the same way." —-Library Journal Starred Review
The Rev. Jeffrey J. Bütz
“James Tabor is a meticulous historian who carefully and convincingly lays out the actual Jewish theology of earliest Christianity which lies shrouded in the New Testament. . . . Tabor’s thorough yet succinct writing style brings a welcome new clarity to our understanding of the development of Christianity.”
Huffington Post
Paul and Jesus is overdue, and stands as one of the few books willing to push back assumptions…Digging beneath the acceptable, scholars like Tabor…break through assumptions — even the sacred ones — and give rise to new perspectives and stories.”
The Rev. Jeffrey J. Bütz
“James Tabor is a meticulous historian who carefully and convincingly lays out the actual Jewish theology of earliest Christianity which lies shrouded in the New Testament. . . . Tabor’s thorough yet succinct writing style brings a welcome new clarity to our understanding of the development of Christianity.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439123317
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 311,931
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

James Tabor

James D. Tabor is chair of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of several books, among them The Jesus Dynasty. Visit him at JamesTabor.com.

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Table of Contents

Map: The World of Paul ix

Timeline of Major Events and Figures xi

Preface: Discovering Paul xv

Introduction: Paul and Jesus 1

1 Christianity Before Paul 23

2 Rethinking Resurrection of the Dead 48

3 Reading the Gospels in the Light of Paul 68

4 Last but Not Least 91

5 A Cosmic Family and a Heavenly Kingdom 108

6 A Mystical Union with Christ 130

7 Already But Not Yet 157

8 The Torah of Christ 176

9 The "Battle of the Apostles" 203

Appendix: The Quest for the Historical Paul 227

Acknowledgments 239

Notes 241

Index 267

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    This superb, well written book carefully shows just how differen

    This superb, well written book carefully shows just how different Paul’s religion was from that of Jesus and his first followers. Paul, of course, never met the Jesus of history and his unique theology was built upon an on-going mystical relationship with the Christ figure who, he said, spoke in and through him. In accordance with what Christ conveyed to him, Paul abandoned Judaism and embraced a universal perspective. He saw in Christ’s death the makings of a new humanity. As Tabor writes, “At the core of the mystery announcement that Paul reveals is God’s secret plan to bring to birth a new heavenly family of his own off-spring.” That’s a major contribution to our understanding of Paul’s message.
    Those seriously interested in understanding how Christianity developed will find the chapters on Resurrection, the Cosmic Family and the Torah of Christ particularly fascinating. Resurrection, for instance, has been much misunderstood. It isn’t a matter of physical resuscitation, not a coming back to life of this body and certainly not immortality of the soul. As Paul sees it, resurrection is nothing less than a whole new creation, a new embodiment, a creative act by God who restores life to a reconstituted person after death.
    Don’t miss the Appendix -- the Quest for the Historical Paul -- which contrasts the Paul of his own letters with the historical revisionism of the much later Book of Acts. We now have a number of quests on our hands ... the long-standing one, for the historical Jesus, and now for the historical Paul and his contemporaries, the James and Peter of history.
    A fascinating book, packed with illuminating insights. Highly recommended.
    Barrie Wilson, PhD., Professor, Humanities and Religious Studies, Toronto, author How Jesus Became Christian.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 27, 2013

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