What World Religions Teach

By E. G. Parrinder | Go to book overview

Chapter 21 CHRISTIANITY: (2) GROWTH OF THE CHURCH

PAUL AND THE APOSTLES

The inner circle of disciples who had followed Jesus to the end became the nucleus of the Church. After Pentecost there was a rapid spread of the Messianic faith among the Jews. The extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles was chiefly the work of Paul of Tarsus, who, formerly a rigid Pharisaic rabbi, became the great liberator of Christianity from its Jewish restrictions.

Paul is one of the most misunderstood of people, at any rate by non-Christians. Dr Hussein calls him "The most remarkable of men," but he repeats a common idea that Paul introduced doctrines of which the other apostles were ignorant. Of this there is little evidence. The first Christians believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. There was doctrinal development, in doctrines of the Saviour, the Incarnation, and eventually the Trinity. In this Paul played a large part, in view of his many and extensive letters, though he formulated no systematic theology. But such differences as there were with other apostles came on practical rather than doctrinal grounds, as far as we can tell.

Paul was a great genius, a man of wide imagination and sympathy, of organizing ability and literary skill. He saw that the Gospel must be universal, rather than national, as Judaism was, and that in Christ there could be "neither Jew nor Greek, . . . neither bond nor free, . . . neither male nor female" ( Galatians 3, 28). The revolutionary implications of this in freedom of all races and equality of sexes is still being worked out. In this Paul came up against the timidity of Peter and the opposition of James the brother of Jesus at Jerusalem (see Galatians 2, 11 f.;

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