If one rejects the Gospels there is little basis for rejecting the traditional Christian testimony concerning Jesus, and we arrive at a circular argument. If the texts are accepted, then we are faced with Jesus’ claims to be deity. Additionally, Paul’s firm teaching on the deity of Jesus invalidates this thesis, as does a possible verification of Jesus’ claims if his resurrection is demonstrated as historical. Paul did not corrupt Jesus’ teachings
It should be carefully noted, however, that Schonfield represents only one version of the thesis that Jesus’ message was changed. This claim is a very common one. In general, the frequent charge is that Paul either originated or corrupted Christianity, usually on the subjects of the deity of Jesus and the nature and extent of the gospel message. It is to this more general charge that we wish to offer seven brief critiques.
(1) It has been mentioned above that Jesus made various statements regarding his own deity. He claimed to be the Son of Man, the Son of God, to forgive sin and that he was the actual means of salvation. There are also additional indications of his own teachings concerning his deity, such as his use of the word “Abba.” It is quite significant that Jesus’ first century contemporaries were convinced of his claim to deity (Mark 2:6–7; John 5:17–18).^57 Therefore, the thesis which asserts that the deity of Jesus is a later doctrine fails largely at this point. (2) Numerous ancient, pre-Pauline creeds also teach the full deity of Jesus. Philippians 2:6–11 not only attributes Old Testament praise of God (as the one true
56 See Habermas, The Resurrection of Jesus: An Apologetic, especially chapters 1–3 for the details of such an argument.
The subject of Jesus’ self-designations is an intricate issue and cannot be dealt with in detail here. For some justification of these claims, see Oscar Cullmann, Christology. On the last point, see Reginald Fuller, Foundations, p. 115.