In 2 Corinthians 11:4, the Apostle Paul gives a remarkable insight into early Christianity:
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
There are a variety of interpretations for Paul here. One is that Paul believes that others are corrupting the Good News. This is economical enough; we certainly get the sense throughout Paul’s authentic texts that Paul saw Cephas, Apollo, John, and James, along with their followers (see Galatians 2, 1 Cor 1, 1 Cor 3) as his theological adversaries.
In my view, Paul was an adoptionist. He saw himself as the earthly manifestation of Christ. He was a slave to Christ (Philemon 1:1); his actions were compelled by the Christ Spirit, just like Jesus was in the Gospel of Mark. As an aside, I also presume the Gospel of Mark was set in a realm which was a perfect image of our Earth (see Irenaeus, AH i.25), and that Simon of Cyrene (a cipher for Paul), who received the Christ Spirit in Mark 15, received it in that other realm, and was reborn into this earthly realm.
Paul admits he was not the first to receive the Christ Spirit; it even seems the case, in light of 1 Corin 1:11-13 and 1 Corin 3, that, in Paul’s framework, there may be multiple living concurrent encapsulators of the Christ (alternatively, an individual may possess the Christ spirit for a finite amount of time, until some catalyst compels it out).
Consider the first passage, 2 Cor 11:4, in this context. Others who (claim to) possess the Christ are preaching and corrupting his readers’ interpretation of Christianity. Such a paradigm would imply Jesus Christ, far from being the Galilean minister, is simply one who has encapsulates the Christ Spirit in the present generation. Paul is saying that his congregants should disregard Cephas, Apollo, or any other Christ claimant, and listen to him instead, because his Christ possession is the true one.
This puts a claim about an early Christian sect called the Nazarenes, made by early church father and heresiologist, Epiphanius of Salamis (Panarion 188.8.131.52), into context:
[The Nazarenes believed] Until [Christ] came the rulers were anointed priests*, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and was altered in the time of Alexander
Alexander of Judea died in 48BCE! That is nearly 100 years before the supposed death of Jesus Christ! Were the Nazarenes Epiphanius described misguided fools? Inventing history on the fly? Con artists trying to rewrite Jesus? Victims of Epiphanius’s libel?
The Nazarenes were adoptionists too! The earliest Christians were. They had a very specific idea of who the Christ was, and it was not Paul.
[The Ebionites] use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law
There were multiple Jesus Christs feeding into the Gospel traditions, none of which provide a perfect match. This theory explains nearly every serious problem in the Christian tradition. It explains why we cannot find Jesus in the secular record, how Christianity spread so fast, why we have such a dissonant picture of Jesus’s views in the canonical texts, and why the so-called heresies were so divergent from the eventual Orthodoxy.
The solution is simple. Different Paraclete encapsulators, who were referred to as the Christ (or perhaps the Standing One in Samaria), were preaching different and evolving Gospels.
When the time came to assemble a canon and make it Orthodox, traditions from multiple sects fed into the official Jesus character. It did not matter that these views were incompatible. All that mattered is that people accepted it.