The charge is often made that Jesus’ message was actually quite different from the one which Christians have traditionally taught concerning him. This sometimes is said to be the case, for instance, because the Gospels represent the teachings of the early church and not those of Jesus himself (compare the discussion about Bultmann above). We saw how this approach is invalidated as an attempt to ascertain Jesus’ teachings.
Hugh Schonfield postulated another reason for this change in Jesus’ message. He holds that Jesus was a teacher who was true to Judaism and who had no desire to start any new religion. That is why, for instance, he never proclaimed his own deity.^38 While Paul did present some different teachings,^39 he is not the real culprit. Rather, Schonfield asserts that the church at Rome perverted Paul’s teachings about Jesus in order to turn him into a deity who set up a new religion.^40 The Roman church did this by consciously writing some of the New Testament books and by influencing others to rewrite the story of Jesus. Books said to be either written or influenced strongly by this effort include the synoptic Gospels, Hebrews and Peter’s epistles.^41 The general movement is from Jesus’ original teachings, to Paul’s assessments, to the Roman redirection.^42 The result is that Christian theology as it is taught today is not the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.^43 By such progress, the teachings of Jesus and Paul have been changed by a plot to make Christianity palatable to Roman Gentiles. In spite of Schonfield’s new “twists,” his thesis is vulnerable to four criticisms.
1.No factual basis
First, since Schonfield rejects the testimony of the Gospels,^44 he presents no valid basis on which to assert that Jesus’ original teachings were different from what