Near the end of the movie Last Temptation of Christ (see my review of this movie here), near the end of the dream given to Jesus on the cross, the old Jesus meets the old Paul. Paul is full of fire an pith and preaching things the real Jesus would not have said. This Jesus confronted Paul and told him how the cow ate the cabbage. Paul dismissed him, saying that he was glad to have met Jeus because now he could forget all about him, and went on preaching. (The movie’s Paul is facing us in the picture.)
Paul, the real Paul, not the movie Paul, found in Jesus a way of spreading Jewish tenets to gentiles, and would not let a little thing like historicity get in his way.
The book The 100: A ranking of the most influential persons in history was controversial when it came out in 1982 (was that really 30 years ago?). Of course, I bought it. The main thing over which most people got their panties in a wad were 1) Jesus Christ was ranked third behind Muhammad and Isaac Newton and 2) the list included such notable higlights of humanity as Karl Marx,Lenin,Hitler, Stalin, Machiavelli, and so on.
Why was Jesus third? The founder of the most widely-accepted religion is only third? Well, to me there are two reasons (but read the book for the authors— a few of which I agree with):
1) the faith of Christianity has been anti-progress throughout its existence while Islam led the world in math and science, at least for a time; and. most importantly, 2) St Paul. Jesus was not the founder of anything. No writings, no official organization. Paul founded Christianity and based it loosely on the teachings of Jesus and, against the will of Peter and the rest of the Jerusalem council, took it to Rome and thus to the world, while Peter and the actual disciples of Christ mucked around seditiously until Rome almost destroyed the fledgling faith when they solved the Jewish problem of their time, and they would have had Paul not been there.
Christianity has a core. That core is the mystic teachings and words of Jesus. The good for the world is in what he said. But as John Lennon tragically said about Jesus: we remember the man but forget his words.
And it is the words of Jesus, the basic and underlying tenets of his teachings that are good, that will lead to a better life. Live like there is no heaven, act like this world is all there is and to make it better is to live by Jesus words, not the doctrines twisted out of them. And these words are the underlying structure of all religion: love and harmony and care for each other. In the words of Rodney King, Jesus commanded us all to “just get along.”