Jesus and Paul – Some Initial Thoughts

I have spent some time with my comparisons between Jesus’ words and Paul’s. I will be posting my first comparisons in the next week or so. But I wanted to talk a little about what I have found so far.  As Sam, who commented on the last post, indicated I have found that a big part of the differences between Jesus and Paul lay around the way we look at Paul’s words.  Do we take each and every word to be for all circumstances and for all eternity or was he  just addressing a particular situation in one of the congregations that Paul had previously started?

If we follow the dominant Evangelical line we take every word to be for every instance. In other words, all of Paul’s words are doctrine for the church in general.  This is where I believe the problems most frequently occur. When we do this we are indeed pitting Jesus words, which most believe are all pretty much doctrinal in nature, against sometimes very different words from Paul found in the correspondence he wrote to those churches. I am a person who puts Jesus Christ front and center in my faith and life so I tend to make Paul’s words secondary at best.

I have also been casually looking at some of the theologian’s words about this topic. They are all over the map when it comes to Paul. There are some theologian’s who believe that the true foundations of Christianity are Pauline and that Jesus’ words have little to do with today’s church. Then there are those who take the complete opposite stand.  Thomas Jefferson, who I have read quite extensively was one who believed that Paul took the otherwise very simple message of Jesus and made it very complicated by all his rules and edicts. In fact Jefferson went to far as to put together his own version of the Bible. Of course none of the Pauline letters were included.

As usual there is generally not much agreement about Paul’s place in the church. But what else can we expect given all the divisions that have taken place in the church? I tend to keep in simple in this regard and say that anyone who takes Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a member of the one true church.  All this other stuff, Paul included, is just small stuff.

Next time I will be bring some direct comparisons to Jesus’ words with Paul’s.

Jesus and Paul…

I am going to start yet a new category on this blog called “Jesus and Paul”. I will try to pull out words from Jesus and then corresponding words from Paul to see how the words and their corresponding meanings might differ. From my initial look at this topic I was somewhat surprised to find what I have. This will be an interesting place to go in my study of the Bible.

Many Christians today, especially those who call themselves Evangelicals and Lutherans in particular, like to say that “all the words in the Bible are the words of Jesus”. Anyone who has read much from this blog know that I just don’t see it that way. In my mind Jesus’ words must take front and center in my Christian life. He was God incarnate; all the other writers were simply human beings whose words were  inspired by God. All the words in the Bible must be filtered through the red letters. Where there appears to be a conflict Jesus’ words will reign supreme, at least to me.

I want to say in advance that when there is an apparent conflict between the words of Jesus and Paul I am not trying to insinuate that Paul was lying or trying to lead us astray. I know there are many around who love it but I am just not a conspiracy type guy. Instead I tend to believe that some of the words of Paul were just Paul giving his human and personal opinion about something. There are a few places in his many letters where he openly states that fact. I wish he had done that more often so as not to confuse some of us now twenty centuries later.

In studying Paul I have come to the conclusion that he, among other things, was just a ornery old bachelor and that human condition bled through to some of his words in his many letters. Of course the same is true for all of us. Our experiences determine how we view life.  That is what makes us human. How could it have been otherwise for even the Apostles. I am just not one to believe  that when Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus he quit being the person he was and was totally taken over by Jesus in all his thoughts and words. He did not give up his personality or human thoughts in the process. Neither did any of the other epistle writers. The human aspect of the Epistles is what gives them value. I believe their humanity shows through in many of their words. In my mind that is one thing that continues to make the Bible interesting. We can view being disciples of Jesus Christ through many different human foibles. This will be an interesting study indeed.