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One may wonder what, from the New Testament, separates these two groups by
such a vast expanse of understanding. Trinitarians, Unitarians and Muslims all claim to
follow the teachings of Jesus. But who really does, and who doesn’t?
For centuries the argument has been advanced that Trinitarians follow Pauline
theology in preference to that of Jesus. This charge is difficult to deny, for Jesus taught
Old Testament Law whereas Paul negated it. Jesus preached orthodox Jewish creed; Paul
preached mysteries of faith. Jesus spoke of accountability; Paul proposed justification by
faith. Jesus described himself as an ethnic prophet; Paul defined him as a universal
In disrespect to thousands of years of revelation conveyed through a long chain
of esteemed prophets, and contrary to the teachings of Rabbi Jesus, Paul focused not on
the life and teachings of Jesus, but upon his death. As Lehmann writes, “The only thing
which Paul considers important is the Jew Jesus’ death, which destroyed all hopes of
liberation by a Messiah. He makes the victorious Christ out of the failed Jewish Messiah,
the living out of the dead, the son of God out of the son of man.”119
More than a few scholars consider Paul the main corrupter of Apostolic
Christianity and the teachings of Jesus, and they are not alone. Many early Christian sects
also held this view, including the second­century Christian sect known as Adoptionists.
According to Bart D. Ehrman, “In particular, [the Adoptionists] considered Paul, one of the most prominent authors of our New Testament, to be an arch­heretic rather than an
Johannes Lehmann writes, “What Paul proclaimed as ‘Christianity’ was sheer
heresy which could not be based on the Jewish or Essene faith, or on the teaching of
Rabbi Jesus. But, as Schonfield says, ‘The Pauline heresy became the foundation of
Christian orthodoxy and the legitimate church was disowned as heretical.’” 121
He continues, “Paul did something that Rabbi Jesus never did and refused to do.
He extended God’s promise of salvation to the Gentiles; he abolished the law of Moses,
and he prevented direct access to God by introducing an intermediary.”122
Bart D. Ehrman, author of The New Testment: A Historical Introduction to
the Early Christian Writings and perhaps the most authoritative contemporary
voice reminds us that “Paul’s view was not universally accepted or, one might
argue, even widely accepted,” and that there were prominent Christian leaders,
including Jesus’ closest disciple, Peter, “who vehemently disagreed with him on
this score and considered Paul’s views to be a corruption of the true message of
Commenting on the views of some early Christians in the Pseudo­
Clementine literature, Ehrman writes, “Peter, not Paul, is the true authority for
understanding the message of Jesus. Paul has corrupted the true faith based on a
brief vision, which he has doubtless misconstrued. Paul is thus the enemy of the apostles, not the chief of them. He is outside the true faith, a heretic to be banned,
not an apostle to be followed.


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