The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity

In religious studies, few topics are as controversial as the origins of Christianity. One of the most interesting figures in this narrative is the apostle Paul. His influence on the early Christian movement is undeniable. In his book, “The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity,” Hyam Maccoby delves into the historical context surrounding Paul's life and teachings, offering a critical perspective on his role in shaping the Christian faith.

Maccoby begins by setting the stage, providing a detailed analysis of the social, political, and religious situation of the first century CE with the emphasis on the Middle East. The author argues that Paul's background as a Pharisee and his conversion experience on the road to Damascus were instrumental in shaping his theological worldview. However, he writes: “According to the Ebionites, Saul [his Jewish name] was not a Pharisee and not even a Jew by birth. His parents in Tarsus were Gentiles, and he himself had become a convert and had thereupon journeyed to the Holy Land, where he found employment in the service of the High Priest.” (60)

However, in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul declares: “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, and my father was a Pharisee. I am on trial here because I believe that people will rise from the dead.” (Acts 23:6)

the prompt for Copilot: St. Paul from the Bible: My brothers, I am a Pharisee, and my father was a Pharisee. I am on trial here because I believe that people will rise from the dead.
The passage from Acts 23:6 about Paul being a Pharisee, envisioned by Copilot AI.

One of the central themes of the book is the idea of Paul as a mythmaker. Maccoby struggles with the idea that Paul's interpretation of Jesus' teachings diverged significantly from those of the original disciples, particularly on issues such as the law, salvation, and the nature of Christ. The author suggests that Paul's writings, rather than representing a faithful reflection of Jesus' message, were influenced by his own cultural and philosophical biases.

One of Maccoby's most provocative claims is that Paul played a crucial role in the invention of Christianity as a distinct religion separate from Judaism.

“The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity” is a thought-provoking read that challenges conventional understandings of Paul and early Christianity. I like the author's meticulous research and very interesting writing style, even though his arguments are very controversial, especially when he claims Paul to be the true founder of Christianity.

As a reader, I found “The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity” to be both enlightening and entertaining. While I appreciate the author's critical approach, I also recognize the complexity of the historical and theological issues at play. This book reminds me that the study of religion is a complex endeavor that requires careful study of different perspectives.

While the book won't provide definitive answers (it certainly creates a controversy), it raises important questions that are worth exploring further.

The book can be accessed in its entirety at Internet Archive: The Mythmaker. Paul and the Invention of Christianity

Comments: 0

Interested to discuss? Leave a comment.


0 / 5000

Your email will not be published nor shared with anyone. In your text you can use *italic*, **bold**, [links]( These comments are moderated and published manually as soon as possible.