Who was the genius who came up with the idea that the dead Jesus of Nazareth was God? Despite claims to the contrary in the Gospels and in Paul’s letters, Jesus never claimed to be God during his lifetime. If he had really marched into synagogues and said he was divine, he would have been laughed out of town – and probably beaten to a pulp as well. I do think he considered himself to be the messiah, which he believed to be based on a covenant, similar to the fundamental covenant between the Jewish people and God. Jesus thought that God had chosen him as the messiah and that he had in turn accepted the mission.
The mission failed—not through any fault of Jesus’s—and he was tortured and murdered. For the Jews, this meant that, however tragic his death had been, he could not have been the Messiah, because the Messiah would have saved them. But that was not the end of it. Some claim that Jesus would (typically) have been buried in a mass grave with all the other criminals slaughtered that day. Others assert that he was buried in the tomb of a member of the Sanhedrin. Two days later that tomb was empty.
And thereby hangs the beginning of his apotheosis. Someone says Jesus was resurrected. Next we’re told he has been raised up to Heaven. He is now a god. He is now the God. Who has invented this story? He/she is a genius. But who was this person? By the time Paul has inserted himself into history, the tale has been established. Paul has only to embellish his role in the story, which he does superbly. But Paul did not invent the resurrection/apotheosis fable. Who did? And why did so many believe it? This is the greatest Christian mystery of all.