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On "Jesus vs. Paul" a response to Scot McKnight by Walt Kaiser
In the December 2010 issue of Christianity Today, which just arrived, the lead article was on "Jesus vs. Paul," by my friend Scot McKnight. I enjoyed reading Scot's discussion of this topic, for I had written on this topic (along with other parallel concerns about unity vs diversity) in my 2009 Zondervan book entitled Recovering the Unity of the Bible: One Continuous Story, Plan and Purpose.
Even though I admire Scot (for after all, I hired him when I was Academic Dean for the TEDS' faculty years ago), I wish he had had the benefit of reading the fifth chapter in my new book on "The Unity of the New Testament," where I discussed "The Relationship between Jesus and Paul" along with other topics such as the alleged tension of the Synoptic Gospels with the Gospel of John, the alleged differences beetween the Paul of the book of Acts and the Paul of the Epistles, and the so-called split between the book of James and the other NT writers in theology.
But more to the point Scot discussed, Paul did occasionally refer to the "kingdom of God" as Jesus did (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9, 10; Gal 5:21), which showed he was conversant with what Jesus said. But there were a number of other points of contact between Paul and Jesus. All will recall Paul's inclusion of Jesus' teaching on divorce (1 Cor 7:10), or Paul's urging that those who teach should receive their living from the Gospel as Jesus taught (1 Cor 9:14, cf. Matt 10:10; Lk 10:7). Even Paul's teaching about the "thief" in 1 Thess 5:4 may be an allusion to Jesus' teaching on his second coming (Matt 24:23). There are more instances we could add, but the 1 Cor 11:23-26 institution of the Eucharist begins with those wonderful words: "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.'" This too was another place where Paul depended on Jesus for his theology and praxis.
So, I agree, it is hard to make a case for a conflict between Jesus and Paul. In fact, the "Promise" plan of God incorporated both the "kingdom" aspect, as well as the "Gospel" that was announced to Abraham (Gen 12:3; cf. Gal 3:8) which Gospel also embraced justification.
The case for the Unity of the Bible grows as scholarship catches up with Biblical revelation. Instead of seeing Paul as the one responsible for founding a new offshoot of the Jesus movement or even as the alleged founder of Chriistianity, we take him at his word: he was a servant of Jesus Christ!
Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; The Messiah in the Old Testament; and The Promise-Plan of God; and coauthored An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website is www.walterckaiserjr.com.
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