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.