Visits a Corinthian
Carrying a manuscript under his arm, the stranger stood at the door and knocked. The homeowner heard his voice and opened the door. Good afternoon, said the visitor. Might you be Stephanas, the elder?
I am indeed, Stephanas replied. And who are you?
My name is Quinctilianus. Like you, I am a follower of Christ Jesus, and I have come to learn what is being preached of him here in Corinth.
Quacinillitus, did you say?
No, Quinctilianus. Most people just call me Q.
Well, Q, I am most happy to meet another brother in Christ. Won't you come in? The two men proceeded to the atrium, and Stephanas offered Q a seat near the shallow pool.
I suppose, Q remarked, the Messiah appeared to them in Jerusalem, or perhaps Galilee. Stephanas was puzzled; he had not heard of a connection of the Messiah with the Judean province of Galilee. Were there any such appearances here in Corinth?
Yes, there was one, answered Stephanas. A charismatic preacher was passing through, and more than 500 of us had gathered at the theater one afternoon to hear what he had to say about the coming Messiah. Rain was threatening, but we were singing and chanting and working ourselves into a frenzy. Suddenly, off to our left, the heavens parted and we saw Christ in his glory! Five hundred of us witnessed this miracle at the same time! 1 Corinthians 15:6
And you believed!
I did. However, I was not yet sure what I believed. A couple of years later, the Apostle Paul arrived on one of his missionary journeys. He came right here to my house to speak to my family, and we all listened and were converted to the faith.
What did Paul teach you?
It was the pure and simple gospel, derived from the ancient prophecies. According to those scriptures, the Messiah died for our sins. He was buried, but he was raised on the third day and is still alive! 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 Why did Jesus have to die? Paul said it was so that, if we believe in him, our sins will be purged and we can die with him and consequently live with him.
And who taught all of this to Paul?
No one. He learned it by personal revelation. Here, I have a copy of a letter he wrote to another church that he founded, this one over in Galatia. I quote: I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a man, nor was I taught it, but it was revealed to me by Jesus the Messiah. Galatians 1:11-12
It was revealed not by Jesus the man, and not by the men who were his disciples, but by the risen Messiah?
Correct. Paul didn't know anything about the earthly Jesus, only the resurrected Christ a spirit in the sky who appeared in visions like the one that he himself received near Damascus. Acts 22::6-8 He believed that this vision, his first encounter with Christ, proved that Jesus is living in heaven and that he is the Messiah and that he will soon return.
Now it was Q who was puzzled. So Paul wasn't aware of what Jesus preached? The Lord's Prayer, for example?
The what now? No, Paul often told us, We do not even know how to pray as we should. I resolved I would not claim to know anything except Jesus the Messiah, nailed to the cross. Romans 8:26, 1 Corinthians 2:2
You haven't heard Jesus's Sermon on the Mount?
I know of no such sermons. Where do you get these crazy ideas, Q?
Well, since I became a Christian I've been going around asking older believers what they've heard about Jesus and the words he spoke while he was with us here on earth. His preaching is precious to us. For example, the Beatitudes. And the Golden Rule. Stephanas shook his head, but Q continued. I've been writing down the things people tell me in this manuscript. Many of these collected words of the Lord are parables, easily remembered. For example, there's the story of the wedding feast, and the story of the lost sheep, and the story of the wise and foolish builders.
Paul taught us nothing mundane like that. Nothing at all. Are you sure your alleged witnesses aren't simply inventing these quotes?
No, Q insisted, they're all good Christians, just like you and me.
Well, I'm not so sure about thee, grumbled Stephanas. The Apostle Paul didn't need any such stories. We had actually seen the Lord's glorious majesty with our own eyes. 2 Peter 1:16 And now you come to me bearing a manuscript full of cleverly composed tales and proverbs?
But surely you hunger to know more about the Lord.
Let me quote the apostle again, said Stephanas, consulting another document. Here's one of the letters that he wrote to us. I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by its tricks, so your minds may somehow be lured away from sincere and pure devotion to the Messiah. For if someone comes along and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you are all too willing to listen. 2 Corinthians 11:4
Another Jesus? A different gospel? Q couldn't grasp these concepts. But Stephanas was getting worked up over threatened challenges to his Pauline belief system.
And here's that copy of the Galatian letter. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of the Messiah and, instead, are following a different gospel not that another one really exists. To be sure, there are certain people who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel about the Messiah. But should anyone, even I myself or an angel from heaven, proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what I proclaimed to you, let that person be condemned! I say again: If anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that person be condemned! Galatians 1:6-9
Do not condemn, retorted Q, remembering something from his own manuscript, lest ye thyself be sentenced to everlasting torment. Matthew 7:1
No, thou art condemned, Quintabeelzebub or whatever your name is! Thou art anathema to me and to my house! Depart from here, accursed one, and never return!
EPILOGUE: Stephanas never lost his faith, but Q was not deterred for long. And nothing could stop others from collecting additional Jesus stories.
After Paul's death, Mark wrote a entire book, The Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, about a coming Kingdom of God. In it, he claimed that Jesus had performed a number of miracles while he was alive on earth.
Mark's book would have earned Paul's condemnation, because it was contrary to his gospel. As Bart Willruth writes, Paul's Jesus was a cosmic being who accomplished all his feats in the heavens, much like the Greco-Roman gods, only with a Jewish twist. [Paul knew] nothing of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Joseph, Mary, disciples, exorcisms, healings, preaching, feeding 5000, bodily resurrections, triumphal entry, transfiguration, killing 2000 pigs, disrupting the temple, a trial and crucifixion in Jerusalem, and on and on.
Click here for other Bible stories I've retold in the first person.