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What If Paul And Traveled East Rather Than West?


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Richard Bauckham, in an essay included in his book, The Jewish World Around the New Testament , examines the hypothetical question, what if Paul had travelled East rather than West?


He is essentially examining the proposition among some Christians and Christian critics that Paul hellenized the Jewish religion of Jesus and essentially invented Christianity. In this essay, he refutes this idea.


First, he makes some interesting observations about the Jewish East at the time which has largely been ignored by historians but was as important in the Jewish diaspora as the Western, hellenized world. He points out that this region was evangelized in places like Egypt completely independent of Paul. And, Christianity was well established in places in the East like Rome before Paul ever arrived.


Bauckham doesn't deny the importance of Paul to Christian development, but argues that Paul was more much consonant with early Christianity than generally thought. He says, “Paul shared a common understanding of the Gospel, a tradition to which he held himself responsible (1 Cor 15:3), common Christian vocabulary, common Christian traditions of exegesis of the Hebrew scriptures, common paraenetic traditions, and so on. […] In comparison Paul appears as no less Jewish than those others, while, conversely, later patristic creedal and doctrinal development was at least as much Johannine as it was Pauline.”


His conclusion: “The historical Paul is not diminished if we conclude that, although without Paul much would have been different about the way the early Christian movement would have spread across the Roman Empire, it would still have still spread, with much the same long-term effects.”



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