“Every prophet needs a handler, a guru who can package the message for sale to the masses. Jesus had Paul. Elvis had the Colonel.” – Rich Cohen, The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones
I stumbled on this quote, I stumble on a lot of quotes, while reading Rich Cohen’s book The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones. One of the things that has always struck me about the Christian faith is Paul’s enormous influence. I have said for a long time that Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion, He was trying to fix the one he loved. Paul, the ambitious man that he was, saw an opportunity, like most over-achievers, to build something new for the masses (non-Jews). He was Steve Jobs, building a better mouse trap.
Scholars agree that the letters attributed to Paul, referred to as the Pauline epistles, are, for the most part, the oldest documents in the New Testament. They also routinely agree that First Thessalonians, Galatians, First Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Second Corinthians, and Romans are probably the only letters Paul actually wrote. If you read these letters you see the ground work Paul is laying for this “New Way”. Everything written after these letters, all of the other books of the New Testament, build on this foundation.
Have you ever noticed how different the four gospels are. Mark is the oldest and the briefest. Bare bone facts, no real theology, just points and movements in time. Though it comes first, Matthew expands on Mark adding more space and time to Jesus’s journey, then Luke, which is tied to Acts, flowers up the overall drama and last but not least John.
John, the book that fills in all of Paul’s holes and then digs new ones. The book that expands Jesus’s vocabulary beyond the parables. It is the book of theology, the blueprint of who Christians are, what they believe and why they believe it. Where would Christians be today without Paul and the Book of John, in my opinion, celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday like their Jewish brethren, but probably still not sitting in the pews with them.
Paul was an interesting and fascinating character. There are many wonderful books about his life, his works and his mission and yes he had a mission. If he were alive today he could be the CEO of the Ford Motor Co. or GE. Instead, he started a religion, as the “guru who can package the message for sale to the masses”. I think he would be pretty pleased with 2.2 billion users, a market share even Steve Jobs would be proud of.