Did Paul Invent Christianity?

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Did Paul invent Christianity? As we look at 1 Corinthians 15, Paul has said a couple of important things. He said, “I delivered what I received”—and I like these words—“as of first importance.” Paul said, “This is basically the most important thing I can preach to you.” And, of course, in the first two verses he said if you accept it, you’re saved; if not, you’re not. So we’re right here at the center.

But then he says, “It’s not mine.” So Paul is not the inventor. Now, is this what we see? Does the passage give evidence that Paul, while passing it on, really got it from somebody else? In other words, Paul is repeating it, but it’s not really his material. Now, moving to these words, we’ll see several indications that this does not come from Paul. 

For example, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried.” Paul never again uses those words, and he never again, whenever he defines the gospel, he always includes, as I said last week, the deity of Christ, the death, and the resurrection.” He never again adds “burial.” So there are non-Pauline words here.

Another indication, Peter’s name is Cephas. Now, Paul does refer to Peter as Cephas, but Peter is better known as Peter, and Jeremias, the German New Testament scholar, thinks that this is one indication that there may be an Aramaic original.

Pinchas Lapide, the conservative Jewish New Testament scholar, has said there are other signs here that this is passing on tradition.

For example, what’s called the “triple hoti clause.” English students will recognize that as: and, and, and. Paul doesn’t come up for air until he gets this long sentence out: “…died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and he was buried, and he was raised, and he appeared.” And Dr. Lapide tells us that is a means of Hebrew narration. 

The words “delivered and received” are technical words for passing on tradition. Paul says it again in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning the Lord’s Supper—“delivered and received.” So, these are just three or four indications that this material is not Paul’s.

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