Did Paul's teachings match Jesus's apostles?

  • Clarifying the question

    Did Paul's teachings match the teachings of Jesus's apostles? Were they on the same team in a way that suggests that if one party teaches x, that this almost guarantees or is at least some evidence that the other party also teaches x?

  • Scholars tend to agree

    • Michael Licona: “It is now generally accepted that no split existed between Paul and the Jerusalem leadership.” [The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP Academic, 2010), 493.]
    • David Garland: “Paul reprises the opening verse (15:1) in 15:11. “Thus we preach” (κηρύσσομεν, kēryssomen) includes all of the apostles, and the present tense conveys that it continues to be their message. Christ’s resurrection is the common denominator on which all are in accord. It is nonnegotiable and cannot be jettisoned without gutting the Christian faith.” [Baker Exegetical Commentary]
“Yes, after all…
  • Polycarp says so

    Polycarp testifies that Paul's teachings match the apostles.1

    1. Polycarp: “For I am as far as anyone else of my sort from having the wisdom of our blessed and glorious Paul. During his residence with you he gave the men of those days clear and sound instruction in the word of truth, while he was there in person among them; and even after his departure he still sent letters which, if you study them attentively, will enable you to make progress in the faith which was delivered to you.” [Epistle to the Philippians, Section 3]
  • Ignatius says so

    Ignatius testifies that Paul's teachings match the apostles.1

    1. Ignatius of Antioch (writing in c. AD 107): “You are initiates of the same mysteries as our saintly and renowned Paul of blessed memory (may be found to have walked in his footsteps when I come to God!), who has remembered you in Christ Jesus in every one of his letters.” [Letter to the Ephesians, Section 12]
  • Clement says so

    Clement of Rome testifies that Paul's teachings matched his own teaching. This is relevant Clement's teachings matched that of the apostles.

    1. Clement of Rome (writing in AD 96): “Read your letter from the blessed Apostle Paul again. What did he write to you in those early Gospel days?” [Epistle to the Corinthians. section 47]
  • People said “Paul teaches what he used to attack”

    Contemporary Christians were saying that Paul “who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” This is relevant because the faith that Paul was trying to destroy was apostolic Christianity (i.e. what the apostles were teaching).

    1. See Galatians 1:23 -- but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”
  • Paul chose to conform his teachings to the apostles

    Paul desired to have his teachings conform to the apostles' teachings.1 This is relevant because, if Paul wanted his teachings to conform to the apostles', it would have been very easy for him to do it.

    But wait, couldn't it simply be that…

    • …the Jerusalem churches' were not very well networked to Paul (i.e. their teachings were inaccessible to him), despite his desire?
    1. Paul consults, acknowledges, and appeals to Jerusalem/apostlic authority. Most scholars agree:

      Yale Anchor Bible Dictionary: “At the very least, one may say that Paul took these leaders seriously even if he did not understand them to be his ecclesiastical superiors.” [Vol. 5, 252.]

      We know this for everal reasons:
      • Paul writes in Galatians 2:2 -- I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. This is relevant because of how much Paul wanted to establish that his authority and reliability should not depend on the apostles.
      Richard Bauckham (NT professor): It is very notable that in Galatians, even in the context of Paul's strong concern to maintain the independence of his apostleship from Jerusalem, he admits that three years after his call to be an apostle he did visit Jerusalem and spent two weeks with Peter (Gal 1:18). [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006), .]
      F.F. Bruce: Paul was anxious both then and throughout his apostolic career to establish and maintain bonds of fellowship with the Jerusalem church and its leaders. [The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 1982) 99.]

  • Paul believed they matched

    Paul believed that his teachings matched the Apostles, and that they were on the same team. This is relevant because Paul would not believe this if his teachings did not actually match the apostles.

    1. This should be believed for three reasons:
      • Paul reported as much to the Corinthians, and moreover expected them to take it for granted.

      1 Cor 15:9, 11, 15 -- For I am the least of the apostles, … but I labored even more than all of them… Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. … if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, …Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ
      Christopher Bryan (NT professor at Sewanee): According to Paul… that proclamation followed a basic pattern on which all were more or less agreed―a claim that could, as we have noticed, have been easily enough challenged if it were not true. [The Resurrection of the Messiah (Oxford, 2011), 66.]
      Christopher Bryan: The other is the appeal to what is new, to the autoptai, the eyewitnesses. This thing was not done in a corner. Some among the Corinthians were certainly familiar with the teaching of Cephas (1 Cor 1:12). Evidently they knew who James was and were aware of other apostles (15:8), and it is hardly likely that none among them had ever heard any of them teach. In other words, the assertion of eyewitness testi­mony made both by Paul and by the apostolic formula was easily open to challenge unless, as must have been the case, he and the Corinthians knew perfectly well that it was correct. (Cf. Robertson and Plummer, First Corinthians, 343; C.H. Dodd, "The Appearances of the Risen Chrsit: An Essay in Form-Criticism of the Gospels," in Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R.H. Lightfoot, ed. D. E. Nineham (Oxford, 1957), 30.; Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God, 318-19.) Naturally, the two elements do not serve the same purpose. The appeal to Scripture and antiquity is meant to tell us something of the significance of the apostolic testimony. The appeal to eyewitnesses is meant to tell us that the testimony is true. [The Resurrection of the Messiah (Oxford, 2011), 54.]

  • Paul was well-networked to the apostles

    Rather than being disconnected, Paul cooredinated quite closely with the apostles and stayed in touch with them and their informants throughout his ministry.

    1. This should be greanted for several reasons:
      • Of the 500 (in/near Jerusalem), Paul knew many:

      James Dunn: “Paul and met and spoken with Peter and James on his first visit to Jerusalem (Gal 1:18f); he was on terms of close intimacy with several at least of 'the apostles' (Andoronicus and Junias - Rom 16:7; Barnabaus - Gal 2:9; 1 Cor 9:5f.; probably Silvanus - 1 Thes 2:6f.; and probably Apollos - 1 Cor 4:9); and he must have known not a few of the 'more than 500 brethren' (1 Cor 15:6), since it is probably Paul himself who has added the phrase, 'most of whom are still alive...'.” [98.]

      • Paul spent a long amount of time talking to Peter about the historical Jesus and apostolic doctrine:
      C. H. Dodd: “we may presume they did not spend all the time talking about the weather.” [The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments 2nd ed.(Hodder and Stoughton, 1944). 16.]

  • The Jerusalem apostles accepted Paul

    The apostles at Jerusalem accepted Paul as a brother and co-worker.1

    1. Acts 9:26-30 -- When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. 30 But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.
  • Paul habitually submitted his teachings to the apostles

    Paul was in the habit of submitting his teachings to the apostles This is relevant because the apostles would have corrected Paul's teachings if they were wrong.

    1. This should be granted for two reasons:
      • It is reported by Paul.
      • It is reported by Luke (in Acts):

      Acts 15: 1-23 -- Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, … 4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.… 6 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. …12 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul… James answered, …22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 and they sent this letter by them, [saying] “…it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,…”

  • Paul aided the apostles

    Paul and his churches sent financial relief to the Jerusalem church. This is relevant because his churches were the Gentile churches, and Paul, and it was he who who collected the funds for.

    1. All (via Paul) donated to the Jerusalem church during the famine: >Acts 11:28-30 -- …a great famine… And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea [Jerusalem church] And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
      Note: Paul here refers to the traditions passed down.
“No, after all…
  • Paul and Peter disagreed in Galatians 2

    Peter disagreed with Peter over doctrine when Peter visited Antioch.1 This is relevant because it suggests Paul disagrees with Peter and James.

    But so what? Plausibly,

    • They were still allies and in essential agreement.2
    • Peter granted Paul's admonishment.
    1. Bart Ehrman: In Acts, Paul is portrayed as being in complete harmony with Peter and the other apostles; according to Paul, he had major disagreements with the Jerusalem apostles, especially Peter, in an ugly confrontation in the city of Antioch over significant implications of his gospel message [154.]
    2. Even if Peter disagreed with Paul, it was over a minor issue that did not affect salvation: the issue of table-fellowship with gentiles. In fact, this was ultimately a disagreement over church politics, which is not a topic the apostles would've been deemed an authority on (any more than their authority in farming techniques).