Did Jesus or his Apostles follow a religion called Christianity? Who were the first 'Christians' ? Who founded Christianity and do the teachings of Christianity conform to the teachings of Jesus?
The mission of Jesus.
In 721 B.C.E the Jewish kingdom of Israel faced defeat at the hands of the Assyrians. Scattered abroad with their Temple destroyed, the Jews turned their focus onto the Law. Monotheism was once again lost, but this time in an ever increasing maze of elaborate rites and rituals.
It was this situation that was present in the world when Jesus received his calling from God. Upon beginning his ministry at the approximate age of 30, Jesus made it clear that his mission from God was to get the Jews back on track:
"For the son of man is come to save that which was lost." (Matthew 18:11)
"For I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)
Jesus also made it clear just what God wanted him to do :
"For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (John 12:49)
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17)
A careful study of Jesus' words will show that, contrary to what Christians may think, Jesus had no intention of starting a new religion; he only came to reiterate the message that God had given to all prophets before him: man was to obey God's Laws and worship Him alone.
At no time during his ministry did Jesus claim to be anything more than a human being, inspired by God. Indeed, he referred to himself as the son of man, and made it clear, in a number of verses throughout the Gospel, that he was merely a Messenger of God
Was Jesus' Mission a success?
"Why callest thou me good? There is none good but One, that is God." (Mark 10:18)
"...whosoever receives me, receives not me, but Him who sent me." (Mark 9:37)
"And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent." (John 17:3)
"Now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard from God." (John 8:40)
"I ascend unto my Father and your Father, my God and your God." (John 20:17)
Despite all his efforts--wonderful words backed up with some pretty nifty miracles--Jesus was soundly rejected, especially by his own people.
Three years after he began his ministry, he was arrested and charged with sedition and blasphemy. Success had eluded him, at the end of his life on earth; he left behind only a mere handful of followers, not more than 500 at most.
The True Founder of Christianity
Approximately five years after Jesus' ascension into heaven, A twenty-five-year old zealot was on his way to Damascus to pick up a group of Nazarenes (The followers of Jesus called themselves as Nazarenes) for return to Jerusalem when he had a vision in which he claimed Jesus appeared, asking why Saul was persecuting him. Saul changed his name to Paul and went off into the deserts of Arabia in order to think about just how he was going to go about carrying out what he believed to be a command from Jesus to go out and preach.
Exactly WHAT to do was quite a dilemma for him, however; since the Jews had rejected Jesus and his message, Paul didn't think he stood much of chance of getting through to them, either. He made up his mind that it would be best to simply dismiss them off and target the Gentiles (non-Jews) instead.
The Romans and the Greeks, who made up the Gentile population of Paul's world, were pagans who worshiped a plethora of gods and goddesses. Temples and statues of their deities abounded in the land, and Roman law had it that all people, with the exception of the Jews, must pay homage to the gods.
Paul knew that people with such deep-reaching pagan beliefs were not going to accept the idea that grace and salvation could come from a person who was only considered to be a most upright and righteous human being. If Paul wanted quick results in his ministry, he knew that he would have to "modulate" things a bit, taking into account the culture of the Gentiles.
Paul Maier, in his book "First Christians", tells us that thirteen years elapsed between the time Paul "received his calling" and the time that he began preaching. During that thirteen years, Paul's creative mind put in a lot of overtime; when he finally returned to Damascus, he came back armed with the knowledge that the Gentiles would demand a tangible god within their new religion, and he was prepared to give this to them.
Paul was wildly successful in his subsequent missionary efforts, what with the accommodations he ended up making for the Gentiles. Although the religion of Christianity takes its name from Jesus Christ, Paul of Tarsus must be considered as its true founder, as he is the one who conceived all of its doctrines, and set up its churches throughout the world of his time. Christians don't deny this, either: "No figure in Christian history stands so tall or has had such a tremendous influence as has Saul of Tarsus..."
In his book "The 100: A Ranking of the most Influential Persons In History", author Michael Hart concurs in saying:
"No other man played so large a role in the propagation of Christianity."
There is one big problem with this picture, however: The teachings of Paul, the true founder of Christianity, cannot be found anywhere in the teachings of Jesus or in those of prophets before him.
The following are some of the innovations that Paul introduced into "his" religion of Christianity.
1. The divinity of Jesus
2. The trinity
4. Salvation by faith
Using these doctrines Paul achieved phenomenal success in his ministry. The Jews may have brushed Jesus aside, but the Gentiles flocked to Paul's side, as he gave them just what they wanted in their new religion. The term for the earlier followers of Jesus –Nazarenes was dropped in favor of a new, more 'appropriate' name: Christians, or followers of Jesus Christ.
This new religion of Christianity "...was abundantly interwoven with mythological content drawn heavily from pagan sources..." along with having a theology "...which was produced as the need arose to suit the mentality of the times..."
Later Church leaders thought to neatly end the confusion by saying that Jesus was God-incarnate--an eternal being who "chose" to become a man in the womb of Mary. Jesus had, in other words, two natures--divine and human-- which were united in one single person. While they probably meant well, making a statement such as this only led to more confusion.
The Jews did brush Jesus aside; in a way, however, the religion of Christianity as conceived by Paul has also brushed Jesus aside. Despite what a Christian might say, one will find no evidence wherein Jesus himself puts forth any of the afore--mentioned doctrines within the Gospels. Since Jesus had no plans to start a new religion, it goes without saying that he also did not formulate any doctrines for such.
All Christian doctrines are the work of Paul, based on his desire to gain favor--and new converts--among the non Jews of his time. By incorporating pagan beliefs into the teachings of Jesus, Paul achieved phenomenal success in his ministry, but at the price of tearing down everything that true monotheism stands for. In so doing, Paul abrogated all teachings of Jesus and gave mankind a set of beliefs that have plagued his sense of reason ever since. It is here --the true nature and role of Jesus, as opposed to the Christian view of such -- where we find the fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity.