Paul is said to be one of the most influential men in the Christian religion. Modern Christianity is very different than to the original religion that was formed by the teachings of Jesus. In fact, there are twenty seven books in the Bible and thirteen, or almost half, of them were written by this one man who was a Pharisee from Tarsus.
To understand Paul’s influence, first we must know that he was originally named Saul, came from an influential Jewish family, was well educated and because of his Roman citizenship, could travel freely about a country that was in occupation. His position as a Pharisee assured that he would keep strict observance of all Jewish rules and traditions.
Paul originally was a persecutor of the Christians and was present at the stoning of the martyr named Stephen whose job in the church was to feed the widows and orphans. According to Acts 7:58 – 8:1, Saul not only approved of the murder of this believer, but those who killed Stephen placed their coats at his feet. Saul swore that he would kill all of the Christians.
Later in the New Testament, Paul claims to have had a vision on the road to Damascus where Jesus asked why he is persecuting him. Of course, no one else present saw anything. He claimed blindness until he went to Damascus where a believer names Ananias prayed for him. At that point he became a Christian.
It is interesting to note that in the twenty times that the Bible speaks of Paul as an Apostle, there are only two of those times where it is someone else calling him that and these were said by his friend and assistant, Luke. None of the disciples ever used the term to describe themselves even after spending years in close proximity to Jesus. He also spoke about himself more in his writings than what was normally accepted. His use of personal pronouns was almost three times as much as the author who is next in line. This seems to show a bit of narcissism.
The Way, or the early name for the religion that was first called “Christianity” in Corinth, was deeply influenced by Paul. Early Christianity focused more on the teachings of Jesus and not on deifying him. In fact, the core belief of modern believers that Christ was God in the flesh, died for the sins of man and rose again so that believers could have eternal life seems to come more from the teachings of Paul, who never met Jesus, than from the Messiah himself. He also taught that when Jesus died, the Jewish laws were abolished. Needless to say, the disciples had problems with the changes that he was making to the religion.
Yes, Paul had a great influence on Christianity and could even be considered the creator of the faith that modern believers follow, but whether he was genuinely led by Jesus to do so is a question up for debate.