Was Jesus a religious innovator? In addition to being the sacrifice by which God's need for justice was satisfied, did he come to revamp religious practices, replacing Judaism with Christianity? Was the apostle Paul Jesus' accomplice in defining what this new religion would teach and practice? These are all very pertinent questions for the Christian community because they teach that the work of Jesus only becomes effective for those who adhere to the church and practice the Christian religion. The practice of that religion is based, more on the writings of Paul than on those of Jesus, since Jesus barely mentioned the church at all.
If Jesus established a new, essential religion, and Paul defined the doctrine of that religion, under divine guidance, then we are left to wonder what became of Judaism, the religion in which Jesus was raised and under which He ministered (Matt 5:24). Christianity is starkly divided on this point. Some say, the Jews must convert to Christianity, and other preach that God still accepts Judaism as a valid religious practice. In either case, we still wonder why Jesus, the self proclaimed Jewish Messiah, became the precursor of a new religion which either supplanted Judaism or supplemented it.
If right religious practice under Judaism did not succeed in reconciling mankind, how could a new liturgically based, knowledge driven religion do so? Was Jesus' sacrifice so much more powerful than that of bulls and goats that, even though it still required religious obedience and right practice, it would succeed where Judaism did not? Certainly, the ritualism of Judaism and that of Christianity are not far removed from each other. Obviously, they share a large portion of the same sacred text.
The apparent problem with a religious route to God is the fact that religion is administered by fallible men. If Jesus was truly going to change anything in the manner in which men approach and relate to God, it hardly seems possible that this newness could be simply another religious persuasion under the control and tutelage of human leadership. The inadequacy of the Jewish experience in that regard makes that conclusion unavoidable for me.
In my estimation, Jesus was an innovator of the most astounding sort, but not a religious one. Religion is and always has been about a system of right practice, under human control, by which men try to gain and maintain God's favor. Those systems existed before Christ and He operated under one Himself. Nothing earth shattering could come of a new religious system. Paul'' incessant denunciation of law, in favor of grace, demonstrate for me that he was not the advocate of a new religious system whereby man achieved righteousness by obedience under the auspices of new earthly religious leaders. If so, he would represent the very vanity he fought so hard against.