Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
KRT: So what can be said of Paulinism winning out?
AP: Well, in the fourth and fifth centuries we find the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and also that of Chalcedon (A.D. 45), which rigidly established the dogma that Jesus was God, begotten not made, having the same nature as the Father. That's all a result of Paul's teachings. Although there are some 500 Christian denominations, they are not that much different from one another, not like the early Christianities of the second century were. Denominations today are all varieties of Pauline Christianity. The Christianity around us today is based on that, and, yes, also Jesus of Nazareth . . . Had he not existed, there would have been nothing to interpret–no person, no mission, no death. Christianity has a lot of diversity, but it all comes from Paul. It was not so in the early centuries, though.
It must be pointed out, however, that Christianity also has other parents, not just Paul of Tarsus. After all, there are twenty-seven sacred texts that were canonized by the early church. The early church refused to recognize Paul as the only founder. Instead they include other streams of thought that existed between Christians and, once filtered–dropping out whatever frontally opposed Paul and keeping whatever enriched it–it was considered. Take, for example, the Gospel of Matthew, which is quite Jewish, or the fourth Gospel, which presents a totally different Jesus than what we find in the Synoptic Gospels. In addition to the seven letters of Paul, the church added those of Peter, John, James, Jude. Christianity today is born out of that mix. The result is a complex Christianity, one that more or less bears Paul's seal.
There is a big difference between the historical data we have today of Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ of faith who Paul preached. What differences? you might ask. Well, one is human and one is God. One is a Jewish messiah, the other is a universal Savior. One is a desperate man hanging on a cross, the other is triumphantly risen. Twenty centuries passed, full of catechises, homilies, and books all on the Christ of faith, not the Jesus of history. Slowly but surely, though, publications (including my own, but also others far more important than my own) are trying to catch the image of the Jesus of history. I think theologians in the present century need to solve the differences between these two portrayals of Jesus. I think the world is already starting to do so. I watch from the outside, as a philologist, a man of the university who uses science and is rather skeptical and a rationalist.