Paul’s message about Jesus

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22)

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 16-17)

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.  (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Paul thought that the second coming of Jesus might very well happen while he was still alive. This is clearest in the early letters of Paul, like 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, and near the end of chapter 15 [in 1 Corinthians] he speaks as if this might happen while he is still alive.  (Marcus J. Borg – Professor Oregon State)

The nearness of the End is a frequent Pauline theme.  He sounds it repeatedly, and in many contexts.  Unmarried Corinthians should stay as they are, he urges “in view of the impending distress” – the travails, that is, before the establishment of god’s kingdom (1 Cor 7:26).  “The appointed time has grown very short.. the form of this world is passing away (vv. 29. 31).  It is upon us, he tells his congregations, that “the end of the ages as come” (10:11).  And even in his final letter, Romans, Paul repeats his belief with undiminished conviction.  Until the Son returns, all creation “groans in travail” (Romans 8:22).  … …  Of course, history did not come to the glorious end that Paul so fervently believed it would.  Time went on; Jews for the most part declined to follow the message of a divine, crucified messiah; and Christianity, as it spread in an increasingly Gentile Hellenistic milieu, had to accommodate these facts… It is this note of expectation that God was soon to defeat evil once for all that diminished in our sources as times goes on.  Paul, seeing the final days announced by the fact of Christ’s resurrection, expected the Parousia in his own lifetimes, in the first (and as far as he know, only) generation of believers.  Mark in turn expected it in his generation, the second, after the fall of the Temple.  Matthew saw it vaguely off in the future; Luke, for whom Christ’s resurrection implied not his Second Coming but the founding of his church, even further.  And John seems to think in different terms entirely:  the distinction between the realms of light and darkness are absolute and static, and if one is Christ’s he has already passed from death to life  (John 5:25).  (Paula Fredriksen – Professor Boston, Princeton, Stanford)

Part of what makes the New Testament so focused a work of moral imagination is that it was written under the belief that the end of the world was drawing close.  It was written with a huge sense of impending danger that created a form of concentration that burnt away the trivial.  Facing the end puts all things into perspective.  (Giles Fraser – Church of England priest, Oxford)

NT writers accord the
blood of Jesus Christ a central place in their theology. Poured out in his
sacrificial death on the cross (Rom 3:25; John 19:34; Heb 9:14; 10:19) Christ’s
blood procures redemption from sin and death for all mankind (Eph 1:7; Heb
9:12; 1 Pet 1:19; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5), justifies them before God (Rom 5:9),
sanctifies them, and acquires them as a holy people fit for the Lord (Heb
13:12; Acts 20:28; Rev 5:9). It inaugurates a new covenant between God and man
(Matt 26:28 and parallels; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 10:29; 13:20) which is expressed in
the Eucharist, a repeated ritual which, from its earliest beginnings, possessed
strong sacrificial characteristics (1 Cor 10:14-22; cf. John 6:53-56). The
universal saving efficacy of Christ’s blood, shed in one perfect and complete
sacrifice on the cross, is a fundamental theological datum which the Church
Fathers and all later writers take for granted. (Robert Hayward – Professor Durham)

A
line heard frequently in my youth went, “Jesus was a nice Jewish boy; Paul
was an apostate who organized Christianity into a religion in opposition to Judaism.” Since becoming an historian of the
period, I have learned different. It’s probably more correct to say that the
second founder of Christianity was not Paul, but rather the apostles who saw
the earthly Jesus. Paul, writing in the mid-decades of the first century C.E.
before the Gospels were set down, rarely gives us any of Jesus’ words or any
information about the man Jesus. Instead, he gives us a record of his own spiritual
life and his faith in the crucified Messiah. He gives primacy to his
personal relation to Christ through revelations and visions. The Gospel
writers, influenced by those who knew Jesus, differed with Paul’s ideas about
resurrected bodies and Jesus’ Second Coming. We might even say that the Gospels
were redacted in part to “flesh out” Paul’s writings. Within the
Gospels we see the themes of immortality and resurrection that Paul provides,
but also a struggle to keep any extraneous notions of immortality out of the
story of the Christ. In the end, the Gospel writers won. Paul’s more mystical
view of Christianity did not predominate. To understand how the Gospels and
Paul differ, we need to look at Paul’s understanding of resurrection
bodies–both Jesus’ and that of believers. Paul’s mystical faith depended on
identifying his salvation with the risen Messiah. The identification was not
metaphorical, but a real transformation in the same form as the risen Christ in
heaven (the fancy word for this is ‘symmorphosis’). For Paul, Jesus’
resurrected body was a spiritual body… … … for Paul the very
fulfillment of the end of time … is a spiritual transformation in which the
flesh is left behind. As the Eschaton approached and as humans learned to be in
Christ, the kingdom of God would be actualized. And from his visions, Paul
knows that the process of transformation into a glorified, spiritual body has already begun and will be completed at the last trumpet. Such a transformation is not clearly present in the Gospels, written in the decades after Paul’s letters. The Gospels reflect the religious needs of a later generation of Christians and their reflections on the issue of faith, religious authority,
and the afterlife. The Gospels are devices for the mission of the church, a
different and broader mission than envisioned by Paul. The Gospels may actually
attempt to correct some of Paul’s notions… … Not so for those working in the
apostolic tradition into which Paul fought so hard to be included. Their
writing starts appearing in the 70s of the first century and continues through
the beginning of the second century. They knew something that Paul could not
know–namely that Jesus’ Second Coming would not happen in the first generation
after Jesus–and they adapted to that fact. Part of this meant correcting for
Paul’s overly spiritual religious life and defending Christianity against the
errors of even more radical thinkers. For these proto-orthodox Christians, the
inward process became secondary and the redemption of the world primary. Faith
meant belief in those who had received their knowledge from the original
apostles, who sat at the feet of Jesus and witnessed his life, death, and
resurrection… For the evangelists of that apostolic lineage, Jesus’ resurrected
body was a literal, physical body revivified, not a spiritual body… Visions of
Christ were not wrong in themselves. The apostles had them. But, authority
based on visions is always dangerous in religious life, because anyone may have
them and claim their knowledge is equal to the leaders’, whereas not everyone
could claim they sat at Jesus’ feet… For these apostles, disciples, and
evangelists, Paul’s faith was too personal, too visionary, and too spiritual.
It needed supplementation, in the eyes of the evangelists.  (Alan F. Segal – Professor Barnard, Columbia University)

Whether part of Jesus’ original teaching or not, the early Church had certainly been dominated by an apocalyptic sense of the immense of the coming of God’s kingdom.  Paul for instance had declared that “the time is short” (cd 1 Cor 7:29).  However, as the years passed, the Church was required to adapt to the new circumstances, in which the imminent end of the world seemed delayed our postponed.  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11)

“I am apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13)

Two figures dominate the New Testament.  The first is Jesus, the second, Paul…. Paul’s influence on the development of what came to be known as “Christianity” was immense.  Thirteen of the twenty-seven documents that make up the New Testament claim to be written by him, and the larger part of the Acts of the apostles is devoted to relating the story of Paul’s missionary endeavours.  Paul is the central figure in the New Testament between the middle of Acts and the end of Philemon.  (Morna Hooker – Professor Cambridge)

“Paul’s theological world… has curiously little interest in the life and teaching of its founder, concentrating instead on the effect of his death and resurrection in God’s cosmic plan.”  (Diarmaid MacCulloch – Professor Oxford)

Paul only rarely mentions an event (other than Jesus’ death and resurrection) from Jesus’ ministry and equally rarely quotes from Jesus’ teaching.  This does not always mean, however, that Paul’s teaching is not influenced by Jesus’ teaching.  (D.A. Carson – Professor Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

Though he imperiously claims to have “seen the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:8; Galatians 1:15-17), Paul in fact never laid eyes on Jesus of Nazareth and comes by “the word of the Lord” as he had come by everything else that had to do with Jesus—by hearsay or seizure. (Allen Callahan – Brown and Harvard)

The history of Christian beginnings demonstrates that it was most effective to establish and to nurture the community of the new age without any recourse to the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. All that was needed was a ritual (the eucharist) and a story, namely the story of Jesus’ suffering and death and, of course, hymns of mythic poetry… … However important the eschatological concept of the Kingdom of God may be in traditional sayings of Jesus, Paul’s use of this term is at best marginal, certainly not a central concept of his message.  (Helmut Koester – Professor Harvard)

A high Christology developed very early, as the so-called Christ-hymns in the Pauline corpus (e.g.  Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20) testify…   (D.A. Carson – Professor Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:6-11).

The Old Testament used the term “Son of God” in a broad sense, perhaps best translated as “belonging to God”.  It was applied across a wide spectrum of categories, including the people of Israel in general (Exodus 4:22), and especially the Davidic king and his successors who were to rule over that people (2 Samuel 7:14).  In this minimalist sense, the term could be applied equally to Jesus and to Christians.  Jesus himself does not appear to have explicitly used the term of himself.  It is found used in this way elsewhere in the New Testament, especially by Paul and in the letter to the Hebrews.  Paul, for example, stated that Jesus had “been declared Son of God” on account of the resurrection (Romans 1:4).  Paul uses the term “Son of God” in relation to both Jesus and believers.  However, a distinction is drawn between the sonship of believers, which arises through adoption, and that of Jesus, which originates form this being “god’s own son” (Romans 8:32).  In the fourth gospel and in the Johannine letters, the term “son (huios) is reserved for Jesus, while the more general term “children” (tekna) tends to be applied to believers.  (Alister McGrath – Professor KCL and Professor Oxford)

“During those years [Paul] would have met with other followers of Jesus, and together they started the process of articulating a theology that would translate the Jewish Jesus into a gentile Saviour… Since the sign of the messianic age inaugurated by Jesus was not, at least yet, the resurrection of the dead or the final judgements, Paul provided it a different, and in his view even better effect.  He concluded that the cross could be understood as a sacrifice… Thus, he asserts, “will we be saved through him from the wrath of God” (Romans5:9)”.   (Amy-Jill Levine – Professor Vanderbilt and Cambridge)

1 Cor. 15.3 shows that (Jewish) Christians very early interpreted the death of Jesus as a sacrifice, and that idea is present here too [in Romans 3.5] “offer” as well as “expiation in or through his blood”) and is implied at 4.25.  That is, however, different from some substitutionary theories of atonement. Substitution takes place in sacrifice, but there is no idea of God punishing an innocent victim.  Rather, God accepts the offering of the worshipper.  The [idea of] Christ as the one true perfect sacrifice, is explored in the epistle to the Hebrews, and can find support in these pre-Pauline Jewish Christian ideas.  (Robert Morgan – Oxford)

[idea of] atonement (literally making at one), and of how reconciliation and release for others need so often to be bought at the price of an innocent’s life.  Christianity of course sees this supremely in the case of the death of Christ.  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

Paul’s teaching that Christ has, for Christians, brought the law to an end “Christ is the end of the law”, Romans 10:4 LOOK UP

For Paul Jesus is the end of the law – that is fundamental… Implies that the law and the commandments are no longer the guidelines for the conduct for the members of the new community.  The dividing line between Jews and Gentiles has disappeared, or must disappear…If the Jews and the Gentiles want to come together the laws that distinguish the Jews from the Gentiles can no longer rule… With respect to the principles that govern the community the law is no longer relevant, rather it is the commandment of love that must determine this conduct.  All the commandments of the law are summarised and culminate in this one and only commandment to love each other.  (Helmut Koester – Professor Harvard)

The letters of Paul are older than the Synoptic gospels, yet the latter are historically closer to the historical Jesus.  This is first of all because they contain many individual traditions which are older than the letters of Paul, but above all because they are free of the Pauline “tendency” to see Jesus as a pre-existent, mythical being.  (Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz – Professors Heidelberg and Utrecht)

The Gospel of John is the first Christian writing actually, and probably deliberately, to make the verbal distinction between Jesus as “Son” (Greek huios) and Christians as “children” (Greek tekna) of God (e.g.  John 1.12).  in fact, in this gospel, the unique relationship of God and Jesus as Father and Son is the doctrinal axis on which everything rests (see, especially, chapters 13-17), though, at the same time,, no NT writing goes further in integrating Jesus and his followers.  We may not how Matthew, by contrast, solid in his belief in Jesus’ unique role, can show Jesus referring to God frequently as “my”, “your” and “our” Father, apparently finding no difficulty in not insisting on “son” as special for himself.  Seen as Israel’s messiah-king, he is addressed as “Son” by God at his baptism (Mark 1.11, referring back to Ps 2.7).  In Luke 20.36, “sons of God” appears as a term for angels, and in Revelation, Jesus is seen in just such a heavenly guise and called God’s Son (2.18).  The upshot is twofold.  First, “Son of God” in line with senses found in the Jewish background and in the early Christian usage, is a term referring not only to Jesus but also to Christians, and only in the late first-century Gospel of John was a start made on confining the term to Jesus to signify his uniqueness, though Romans 8.29 may be an attempt by Paul to show how he saw the connection:  Jesus as “the firstborn among many brethren”.  (Leslie Houlden – Professor Kings, Oxford)

So how is Paul’s theology of the cross to be described?  We may say that, for Paul, the cross stands, immovable, as the fundamental reference point of faith.  It is from here that faith began, and to here that faith will continually return, to be nourished by the crucified Christ.  Through sharing in Christ, the believer shares in his sufferings and death, and will one day – but not yet! – share in his glorious resurrection.  And that hope will and must keep us going through faith.  Believers may catch glimpses of the heavenly realms, they may even hear the distant voices of angels – but they remain here, committed to Christ crucified, in the midst of a suffering world.  the heavenly realms remain in the future, even if their distant music can now be heard.  The cross stands as the image of the Christian life in the world, just as it stands for the hope beyond this world, which believers share with Paul.  (Alastair McGrath – Professor KCL and Professor Oxford)

One accusation often brought against Paul is that he taught a totally different gospel from that proclaimed by Jesus himself.  He has been described, for example, as the real founder of Christianity.  At first sight it does indeed seem that the message of Jesus was very different from Paul’s.  But we have to remember that while Jesus taught about God, not about himself, Paul, too, who is apparently so Christocentric in his teaching, is concerned primarily with what God did through Christ.  Jesus did not come to “found” a new religion, but to call his people back to God.  But Paul, also, was not founding a “new religion”, for he saw his gospel as the fulfilment of God’s promises, and his mission was to call Gentiles to join God’s people.  If Paul’s gospel centres on the death and resurrection of Jesus, that was an inevitable shift for any Christian after Easter:  neither of these events could be ignored! (Morna Hooker – Professor Cambridge)

For more than one hundred years experts have studied how the New Testament text has been “edited” by later copying scribes.  These scribes provided variants that removed unattractive theological concepts, clarified the meaning, improved the grammar, or harmonised the text so that it was similar to parallel texts…. Dozens of examples prove that often a core tradition is habitually edited at the beginning and the end.  This insight helps us grasp the editing of Mark by Matthew and Luke, and perhaps, at times, Mark’s editing of the traditions he received.  Also, Paul, in reporting Jesus’ last supper, edits the tradition he received and passed on by supplying a qualifying sentence at the end of the tradition:  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26 NRSV).  Thus, Paul adds a saying of Jesus that drives not from tradition but from his editing.  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

“[Paul] On any chronology… we then run into a fascinating gap:  Paul withdrew to his home town Tarsus and did not re-emerge… Obsessed with his journeys and letters, we readily forget it:  there he sat, the persecutor turned Christian, living in Tarsus for at least five years… eight or nine years had passed since the “blinding light”, but the future Apostle to the Gentiles made no known missionary moves outside his home city…”  (Robin Lane Fox – Oxford)

Paul’s vision of the risen Jesus prompted him first to make contact with those whom he had been determined to arrest, but just as significantly led him to withdraw from a period from Jewish society to reflect (Galat. 1:16-18).  (John Curran – Queen’s University Belfast)

There are now over nine thousand distinct and separate religions, with a hundred or so new ones coming into being every year.  (John Haldane – Professor St Andrews, previously Oxford)

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;she must be quiet.  (1 Timothy 2:12)

A second question concerns Paul’s role in shaping earliest Christianity:  Was he a religious genius who created, out of his personal experience, a Christ cult that was alien to the preaching of Jesus?  Or was he a faithful interpreter of a movement, which he joined after having persecuted it.  The most reasonable answer is that Paul did not invent the Christ cult.  His letters show that he knew and used traditions (ritual, creedal, hymnic) that preceded him.  Still, Paul was a thinker, and he gave his distinctive stamp to these traditions.  (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

“Most Jews… already had the belief in the resurrection of the dead, and they believed in a just God who forgave sin.  Thus this new Galilean saviour would be for them a redundancy – there was nothing broken or missing in their system that his death and resurrection could fix or fill”. (Amy-Jill Levine – Professor Vanderbilt and Cambridge)

In its assertion that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24), James appears to be in contrast with Paul, who wrote that “a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” (Rom 3:28).   This contrast of views has led many to regard James with suspicion and not as important for Christian teaching as Paul’s letters… Luther described it as “an epistle of straw”, and Protestants have been wary of any teaching that goes against justification by faith alone”.  (John Bowker – Professor Gresham, Cambridge)

Matthew and Paul have regularly been represented as – at best – tensive, if not contradictory poles in Christian ethical discourse.  Matthew is interested in Jesus as a second Moses, Paul is interested in a new creation to which the law, even in intensified or interiorised form, is marginal.  But the Matthaean ethic is in fact as concerned as the Pauline to avoid an ideal of the self-construction of the righteous agent by successful performance.  There are appropriate kinds of performance, but what is constitutive of fundamental identities is a relation with God that is shaped not by the pursuit of consistent moral policies but by that puzzling mix of disposition and circumstance sketched in the Beatitudes.  (Rowan Williams – Professor Oxford and Cambridge)

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.  (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

“Paul exhibits breath-taking chutzpah by deliberately avoiding all mention of Genesis 17, in which an alternative version of the covenant with Abraham stipulates that all his descendants should be circumcised.   To have introduced this text here would have left Paul’s … argument in tatters” (John Ashton – Oxford)

[circumcision]  But in the records of these debates within the New Testament, no one ever invokes a saying of Jesus on this dispute subject – presumably because he never made one.  The issue had not come up because Jesus’ followers were Jews, his mission was to Israel, and he simply took circumcision for granted.  (Joel Marcus – Professor Duke University)

Another apparently key persuasive force was the appeal to powerful, miraculous and charismatic / spiritual phenomena (healings, exorcism, ecstatic speech) accompanying the message Paul preached (see Gal 3:5; cf 1 Cor 2:4).  (Margaret M. Mitchell – Professor Birmingham)

“… turning back to Paul, we should not attach too much importance to his apparent misreadings of the OT.  These texts are simply the arguments he has lying to hand:  he uses them when it suits his purpose, to persuade his readers that the Crucified Messiah has superseded the Law”.  (John Ashton  - Oxford)

We get, let’s shall we say, a creative itinerary [of Paul’s movements] in the Book of Acts. [There is] a lot of scholarly debate about how closely we can follow that and use that as the basis of an historical reconstruction of where he went and when. (Allen Callahan – Brown and Harvard)

[Paul’s role]  So we may well ask: why should we take seriously, let alone read reverently, this vituperative, hallucinating, conflict-ridden polemicist who was at the same time both a passionate disciple of a man he never followed and a passionate enemy, by his own admission, of those who did? Why hasn’t the world written him off as a fulminating, apocalyptic crackpot? And why has a worldwide Christian communion been celebrating his birthday?  Because that man, in the perverse hindsight that only dogma could call Providence, became the future of an ancient movement of unlettered, agrarian, Semitic-speaking, indigenous Palestinians that would come to be co-opted by parvenus who, like him, were none of those things. (Allen Callahan – Brown and Harvard)

[Paul survives being bitten by a snake in Malta] However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. (Acts 28:5-6)

Sacrifice is another feature of primitive religion that is easily misunderstood…. Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism have all evolved out of earlier sacrificial practices.  Two fundamental acknowledgments seem to have been intended by such rites.  First, everything belongs to God as its source and so in recognition of this fact one gives something back in gratitude.  Ancient Israel had its burnt offerings and also the sprinkling of blood on the altar – a messy business, but symbolising that the very life-blood coursing through our veins comes as a gift from God… The second major acknowledgement is that no reconciliation, no restoration of a broken relation, can occur without cost.  That was why a valuable animal was given to God, not just any creature from the flock or herd.  Of course, the danger in all symbols is that the symbol will be taken to exhaust the reality, and so nothing further need to be done.  It was for this reason that several of the Hebrew prophets inveighed against the practice.  But it was eventually to provide a model or analogy for understanding Jesus’s own death, though against sometimes with the corresponding difficulty of people thinking that with the sacrifice made nothing further needs to be done on their part. (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

A Canaanite [Gentile] woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  (Matthew 15:22-24)

One of the extraordinary features of Paul’s writings is that he uses the word “Christ” almost as though it were a proper name.  As a Jew, Paul knew very well that the word was not a proper name, and that it was the Greek translation of “Messiah”, the Hebrew word meaning “anointed”.  … The character and function of the Messiah were by no means as clearly defined as later Christian re-interpretation of the Jewish texts has led people to believe, but one thing is clear:  the “Messiah” was selected by God to play a particular role in his plans for his chosen people Israel.  It is often suggested that the way in which Paul uses the word “Christ” shows that it had very quickly taken on the character of a name, and that its original meaning had been forgotten.  Strangely, Paul uses the word as a title rather than as a name only once – in Romans 9:5.  Gentiles, it is argued, would not have understood the significance of the word.  Perhaps not, but it is Paul who is writing and he certainly understood its significance!  For the first Christians, who were all Jews, the term would have been full of meaning.  (Morna Hooker – Professor Cambridge)

Paul wrote long before the fathers of the Church had got to work trying to formulate their beliefs about Christ.  The questions they asked were often very different from the question that occurred to Paul, and their answers tended to be expressed in philosophical language quite foreign to Paul’s . For them, too, Christ’s sonship meant oneness with the Father, but it was oneness of essence rather than oneness of will.  For Paul, who the Son is was expressed in what he did.  As Son, he is like God, and so his actions – including his self-humiliation and willingness to accept death – show us what God himself is like.  The Son of God is the one who, because he was obedient, carried out God’s will.  As God’s Son, Christ was sent by God to fulfil God’s purpose – which was, as we have seen, to enable men and women to become his children.  Later theologians seized on such statements and asked questions about what the Son was doing before he was sent, so opening up a debate about Jesus’ pre-existence.  In order for Christ to have been sent, they argued, he must presumably have been already present with God.  Pauls’ concern in these statements, however, is not with pre-existence, but with the fact that Christ alone was able to carry out God’s purpose, because he alone was totally at one with his will.  (Morna Hooker – Professor Cambridge)

Refusal to allow women to teach or exercise authority in the Church because someone writing in Paul’s name had once forbidden them to do so.  Seizing on what was forbidden in 1 Timothy, people ignored Paul’s radical teaching about the equal status of women in God’s sight.  (Morna Hooker – Professor Cambridge)

For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.  (1 Thess. 2 14-16)

Paul, himself a Jew… [argued that] Judaism indeed had an essence, but that essence was the static, dead “law” against which Christianity would come to define itself as a religion of the spirit.  In these formulations, Judaism became a Christian theological category that Christians could use for their own self-definition:  We are not Jews.  (Michael Satlow – Brown)

When Buddhists hear the story of Jesus’ life and death, it often brings to mind the Buddhist concept of a bodhisattva.  Bodhisattvas place the enlightenment of other beings as their priority and make a vow that they will attend to that rather than their own aspiration to nirvana… From the Christian point of view this seems to illustrate the idea of self-giving love that is so central to the doctrine of the Incarnation and Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.  This self-giving love that can be said to be the essence of the life and death of Jesus also has a close parallel in the Buddhist idea of compassion.  (Peggy Morgan – Oxford)

Who would have known the character Jesus better?  His closest living relatives, who according to tradition were his legitimate successors and Palestine, and those companions accompanying him in all his activities?  Or someone who admits that he never saw Jesus in his lifetime, as Paul does, and that, on the contrary, he was an Enemy of and persecuted the early Christian community, and came to know him only through visionary experiences that allowed him to be in touch with a figure he designates as “Christ Jesus” in heaven?  The answer of any reasonable observer should be obvious:  James and Jesus’ Palestinian companions.  But the answer of all orthodox Church circles has always been that Paul’s understanding of Jesus was superior… Furthermore, it is claimed that the doctrines represented by James and the members of Jesus’ family were defective in their understanding of Paul’s Christ Jesus and inferior to boot.  Given the fact that the Christianity we are heirs to is largely the legacy of Paul and like-minded persons, this is just what one would have expected and it should surprise no one…. Picture of the Apostles in the gospels as “weak” (Matt 14:31 and parallels), a term Paul repeatedly uses in his letters, almost always with derogatory intent … In the Gospels, reflecting Paul, when an Apostle as important as Peter “sinks” into the Sea of Galilee for lack of “Faith” or denies Jesus three times on his death night, the implications are quite clear.  They are “weak” in their adherence to the Pauline concept of “Faith”, as opposed to the more Jamesian one of salvation by “works”.  In addition, they have a defective understanding of Jesus’ teaching, particularly of that most important of all Pauline doctrines, the Christ.  (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

It is well known that the letters which are most securely attributed to Paul have nothing to say about the functions of ecclesiastical ministers.  (Mark Edwards – Oxford)

Taken as a whole, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain copies – and in some cases multiple copies – of every book in the Hebrew Bible except for the book of Esther… However there is not a single copy of any book from the New Testament to be found among them. There are, though, in the scrolls, a number of statements and ideas that would eventually evolve into portions of the Christian canon and that anticipated the religious developments that were to come very soon.  This is especially evident when comparing the War Scroll, in which God and his angels are described as joining the “Sons of Light” (the Essenes) in wiping out their enemies the “Sons of Darkness” with the gospel of Paul “… For you are all sons of light” … and John “While you have the light believe in the light that you may become sons of light”.  (Eric H. Cline – Professor George Washington, previously Stanford, Yale)

Most reckon with the fact that all Paul’s letters were written between AD 50 and his execution in Rome, sometimes between 62 and 67, and that already in these letters, written thus before the synoptics, divine functions comparable to those in John are already being ascribed to Jesus.  So for instance in 1 Corinthians he is described as having complete authority over all things (cf 15:24-8), in Philippians as being “in the form of God” and “equal with God” (2:6), while the opening chapter of Colossians (v 15-17) assigns him the same role in creation as was later accorded him by the opening chapter of John.  So it just will not do to suggest that the “divinisation” of Christ is a late development.  For it clearly antedates the synoptics, though they show less evidence of it than the earlier Paul.  This is not the place to discuss the matter in any detail, but a likely explanation compatible with a doctrine of Incarnation is this:  Paul fully reflects the experience of the post-Resurrection church, while the synoptics, because they are trying to describe the pre-Resurrection life of Jesus, display a largely unresolved tension between fulfilling that task and ensuring that the reader is left in no doubt as to the status that Jesus now enjoys. (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

St Paul’s dislike of women promoted him to discourage sex, and the Neo-Platonists, three centuries later, imported a full-blooded theory of spiritual purity and bodily uncleanness into Christianity, finishing what ST Paul started.  The rest is – unhappy – history.  (A. C. Grayling – Professor Birkbeck, Oxford)

All ancient religious worship involved offerings.  The Athenians would pour libations to their gods, spilling a little wine for Athene, and sharing a drinking cup among themselves.  They would sacrifice animals at their temples.  The internal organs of the sacrifice would be burned, as the god’s portion.  The willingness of the sacrificial victim (bulls were less docile than the average sheep, for example), the darkness of hits blood – these things were seen as omens.  Then the rest of the animal would be cooked and eaten by those attending the sacrifice.  The religious experience was therefore actually a social one.  (Natalie Haynes)

Scientologists inside and outside the Church hold that Mr Hubbard is the saviour of humanity.  Others question that. Paul Thomas Anderson’s brave and good film, The Master, is loosely based on Hubbard.  The film’s tortured main character, a true disciple, is warned: “You know he’s making it up as he goes along”.  (John Sweeney)

There are scholars who want to see all of this talk about this coming judgment of the Earth, and the catastrophes that are going to happen, as pure metaphor. And I think the reason they want to see it that way is because if you think that Jesus literally thought that there was going to be a coming end of the age well, it didn’t happen. And so Jesus would’ve been wrong. And some scholars are uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus could be wrong. I think the only way, though, to decide whether this is metaphor or meant to be taken literally is by looking at what other Jews in the first century were saying. And as it turns out, there were a lot of Jews who were talking about the literal end of the world as they knew it – including, for example, John the Baptist, who thought that the end was coming right away and that people needed to prepare or they would be judged; including the people who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are filled with this apocalyptic kind of thinking; and including Jesus’s own followers. The apostle Paul definitely feels that Jesus is coming back right away – that Jesus is going to be this cosmic judge – and that the Earth is going to be transformed. And Paul describes it not in metaphorical terms but in literally, what’s going to happen at the end. And so I think the desire for Jesus not to be literally meaning this is rooted in an understandable theological move, that you don’t want to have Jesus say things that didn’t come true. But if you actually situate to Jesus in his own historical context, this is the sort of thing that a lot of people expected was going to happen.  (Bart D. Ehrman Professor University of North Carolina)

Communion meal at Qumran, a ritual enactment

of the Messianic Banquet of the New Covenant. Here, the

priestly messiah presides and serves; the Davidic or lay messiah is in

attendance. Again, the notion of a Messianic Banquet of the New

Age is familiar from prophetic literature and later Jewish literature.14

The Pharisees had communion meals, which were similar. So again

we must recognize a Jewish‑Christian continuum.

The New Testament communion meal is eschatological, anticipating

the Messianic Banquet, the feast of the New Covenant. It may

be described as eating the bread and the wine of (the new) David as

found in the Didache. Paul’s language of eating the body and drinking

the blood of the Messiah who is sacrificed is strange and novel and

its meaning debated. Some see it as a poetic identification of Jesus

with the paschal lamb. Jesus is called “the Lamb.” Others see it as

sublimated theophagy. And so on. At Ugarit, we actually have a text

describing a mythic scene in which a young woman comes upon her

lover, the young god, who lies dead, and “she eats his flesh without

a knife, drinks his blood without a cup.”[see the new testament] “This is my body; this is my blood.” I suspect it [this] is a transformation of a lost mythic theme. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

(Interviewer’s question)The New Testament takes the sonship (of God) a little further along.

It is no longer an adopted sonship but rather a genealogical sonship from

birth—Canaanite royal mythology popping up again? (Frank Moore Cross response) There may also be some influence from the ontological thinking

in the Greek world. Sons (and daughters) of gods were very much

at home in the Greek world. In the early church, reflected already in

the New Testament, an ontological understanding of the expression

“son of God” evidently replaced the vocational or legal understanding

of the epithet, which is primary in the Bible…. … The simple [historically uninformed] believer who says that Jesus was or was not the Son of God is actually

thinking in sophisticated ontological (or physical) terms, Greek categories.

The church, orthodox or fundamentalist, often encourages

this anachronistic approach to scriptural texts…. …I think the late New Testament understanding—the ontological—

is not part of Jesus’ thinking or of Paul’s belief or the thinking

of his early followers. For the person who supposes that the Holy

Spirit is the physical father of Jesus, I think it would be disturbing

to discover that Paul is unaware of the doctrine of the virgin birth;

or to read the genealogies of Jesus carefully and discover that they all

trace his Davidic lineage through Joseph. What is the meaning of a

genealogy that goes through Joseph if in fact Jesus is not the son of

Joseph? The testimony of the New Testament, if examined historically

and critically, is complex, with different strata and a mixture of

understandings of messianic titles. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

The New Testament authors believed that they lived at the end

of days (as did the Apocalyptists in general). Jesus’ Resurrection was

understood as the beginning, or first event, signalling that the general

resurrection was in progress. Paul thought the end would come in the

lifetime of the members of his churches.  There was a tremendous

apocalyptic tension in the New Testament consciousness anticipating

the time of redemption. The Christian church has obviously had to

modify the apocalyptic timetable. If Jesus’ Resurrection was the first

resurrection of one of the faithful, a long time has intervened before

the remainder of the faithful are raised bodily to life. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

The apocalyptic movement became the most important theological movement

in Judaism during the Hellenistic period, and it was also to play

a decisive role in the formation of Christianity.”(Helmut Koester – Professor Harvard)

Not surprisingly, the apocalyptic elements in the New Testament are awkward or distasteful

to many Christian theologians and apologists. If they cannot rid the early church of apocalypticism, they can at least claim that Jesus himself and his authentic words were free of this sort of nonsense. The fact is, however, that Jesus lived and died in a world

of apocalyptic fervor. If he is fully freed from this world, he ceases

to be a historical figure. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

HS: Isn’t there a Christological element in Paul that you cannot really

trace to Jewish sources?

FMC: I am not sure that is true. Paul’s development of the role of

the Messiah as the new Adam with cosmological functions might

be singled out, but this is a matter of stress rather than a truly novel

development. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

I for one am prepared
to believe that Paul was a person of an originality which went beyond the mere
echoing of his predecessors or contemporaries. I am prepared to believe that
Paul rep-resents more than a hodgepodge of sources. I find in his epistles a consistency and a cohesiveness of thought that make me suppose that he had some genuine individuality. I admit that I am not a partisan of his views, any more than I
am of those of Philo. But I hold that he had a mind of high caliber, and an
inventiveness of high order. (Samuel Sandmel – Professor Hebrew Union College)

The past generation of Pauline studies has experienced an upheaval of enormous proportions. Since the publication of E. P. Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism in 1977, scholars have attempted to gain fresh understanding of the relationship between Paul and his Jewish contemporaries. There have been hundreds of monographs, commentaries, and articles that have sought to explain exactly what it is that Paul objected to in Jewish thought, as well as in what sense he stood in continuity with his Jewish past. (Simon Gathercole – Cambridge)

Both the Law and Christ he understood as expressions of Judaism. the leaders of the Jerusalem church, having faced the issue raised by the gospel preached to Gentiles by Paul, endorsed it: Paul was not a solitary colossus in the early Church, not a striking peculiarity but a profundity. By the middle of the first century the fires of Jewish revolt against Rome were already being set and even lit in Palestine. Certain Jews were sensitive to all currents that would tend to break down the separation between them and the Gentiles. When Paul preached a gospel which was inducing Jews and Gentiles to fraternize, the extremists who had previously looked upon him with favour, devoted Pharisee as he was, would have turned against him with bitter ferocity. Revolutionaries would have found the Paul who persecuted Christians an unwitting ally: the same revolutionaries would have found his activity after his “call” anathema. It was breaking down the barriers which they saw as necessary to national political solidarity. Paul’s activity against Christians had no political aim, but that it had political implications in the sight of extremists is probable. So when Paul later, as his epistles reveal, responded negatively to the Messianic-political aspirations and activity of some Jewish-Christians, who were under pressure from Jewish revolutionaries, he would naturally incur the wrath of the latter. As noted earlier, this in part accounts for the bitterness of his opponents. Early Jewish-Christians were not immune to and could easily be accused of having succumbed to the influence of the revolutionary political enthusiasm of extreme Jewish nationalists (Acts 1:6). Paul had to counteract this enthusiasm. This is why probably he seldom used the phrase “the Kingdom of God”, which might evoke it, in his interpretation of the Gospel.It is difficult to assess the degree to which the opposition he encountered at the hands of Jewish-Christians and Jews was rooted in the political- nationalist-messianism to which we refer.… … Throughout his epistles, Paul is far removed from the territorial political concerns typical of much of the Messianic speculation of his contemporaries. Where he does express his hopes for the future he does so with an increasing restraint and in a cosmic dimension which depresses the national. Paul’s treatment of the Law, in the light of the advent of the Messiah in whom he now believed, could not but alienate those who rejected his interpretation of Jesus as the Messiah. It has been easy to regard his criticism of the Law as the ultimate ground of the persecution of the Apostle. Jews did not stumble at his doctrine of a Messiah, even a crucified one, in itself ( Jewish-Christians also believed in such an one): Judaism was hospitably tolerant of Messianic claimants.98 But Paul’s acceptance of Gentiles as members of the people of God without the observance of the Law passed the possible limits of Jewish tolerance: it was scandalous. But to state the matter thus unqualifiedly is misleading. Certainly the immediate cause for Jewish opposition to Paul centred on the Law. But his controversial understanding of the Law was inextricably bound up with the significance which, through his experience on the road to Damascus, he had come to ascribe to Jesus as the Messiah, and with the challenges that this had issued to all the fundamental symbols of Jewish life Ð the Temple, the city, the land, the Sabbath, as well as the Law. In interpreting Jesus as the Christ, Paul could draw upon long-standing categories of thought expressed in words and vivid symbols which the Jewish masses and many Sages, despite the frowns of others, took literally. The content of these symbols gave them immense evocative powers. (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

Paul lived in the conviction that the End was at hand… vivid anticipation of an imminent end of all things and intense activity. (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

Paul was informed by the apocalyptic-Pharisaic tradition. In that tradition, despite the firmly entrenched doctrine that the Law was perfect, unchangeable and eternal, some expected that Elijah would be a Messianic forerunner who would explain obscurities in the Law; that in the Messianic Age or in the Age to Come difficulties in the Law would be explained; that certain enactments would cease to be applicable; and that there would be changes in the commandments concerning things clean and unclean. But more than all this, there are late passages where a New Torah for the Messianic Age is envisaged and others where the Law is to be completely abrogated at that time. As before and after, but especially in the FIrst century when Judaism was more varied than at a later time, the content and character of the one perfect Law was a matter of intense debate. How was it to be interpreted? The answers were many. (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

Raisanen finds Paul’s statements about the Law so full of contradictions as to be totally incoherent, and the contradictions are undeniable … … [That said] We suggest that therevolutionary messianic situation in which Paul stood is likely to have produced responses that would appear chaotic. The fluid volcanic messianic context within which the early Christians lived cannot be overemphasized.  (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

Paul demands that the people of God, belonging to Abraham, be defined in a new way. The meaning of ‘descent’ from Abraham has to be radically reconsidered: it no longer has a ‘physical’ connotation. Christian believers, Jewish and Gentile, are the sons of God; they can now cry ‘Abba’ and are the heirs of the promise to Abraham. They do not need to observe the Law in order to be sons of God (Romans 4:1-12). (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

 

A remarkably prevalent view is that Paul changed the religion of Jesus, a good Jewish prophet, into the cult of a divine Christ figure. [but]  The idea that Paul was in any sense the founder of Christianity won’t wash. Christianity was very much a going concern when he was converted on the Damascus Road, which is why Paul was trying to eliminate it so ruthlessly.  … … And the idea that Paul the convert might somehow have invented the Christian gospel, and then foisted it on the rest of the church doesn’t make sense for other reasons.  He was in no position to impose his ideas on others, even if he had wanted to:  Jerusalem was the Christian HQ, and after his conversion Paul was a persona non-grata there. (David Wenham – Oxford)

But
what then about his failure to refer to Jesus’ ministry more?   … He
doesn’t often directly quote Jesus’ teaching, but he does refer to Jesus’
teaching on divorce, he echoes the Sermon on the Mount on loving enemies, he
echoes Jesus’ teaching about his second coming, for example Jesus’ parable of
the thief in the night, he uses the word ‘Abba’, Jesus’ own distinctive form of
address to God 1 Corinthians 7, Romans 12, 1 Thessalonians 5, Romans 8).
And so we could go on.  Any idea that Paul invented key Christian
doctrines is shot out of the water by the evidence:  where did Paul get
the idea of the atonement from?  Surely from Jesus’ teaching about his
body and blood at the Last supper, to which he refers.  Where did he get
the idea of Jesus as divine Son?  Surely from Jesus’ own teaching about
God as his Abba as well as from the resurrection… … His letters are largely
trouble-shooting letters
, in which he deals with particular issues that
have arisen in particular churches
(David Wenham – Trinity College Bristol, previously Oxford)

Jesus’s shameful death remained a scandal, but followers  explained it as a sacrifice for the sins of humankind (Rom. 3.25), the vehicle for the inauguration of a “new covenant” between God and humanity (Heb. 8–10).  (Harold Attridge – Professor Yale)

[Paul]
was trying to get his message across to traditional communities at a time of
huge turbulence, almost hysteria. Like his fellow believers, he thought the
Messiah would return in glory, very soon, almost certainly in his own lifetime,
to save believers and condemn the rest. Having faith, and concentrating hard on
it at the expense of almost everything else, was an urgent necessity that could
not be put off. In the same letter to the Corinthians that contains his hymn to
quiet love, he also warns Christians that ‘our time is growing short. Those who
have wives should live as though they had none. . . those who are enjoying life
should live as though they had nothing to laugh about; those whose life is
buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own.. . I say
this because the world as we know it is passing away! His words show him to be
a control freak, a man with a temper and an authoritarian streak, and convinced
that there is little time to waste; yet he can also be kindly, self-critical
and thoughtful. He can sound like a twentieth-century revolutionary, darting
between cells and factions, trying to hold them to the ‘correct ideological
line and deploying a mixture of threat and flattery — fire and brimstone with a
dash of charismatic charm. It is hardly unknown for the convert to become the
most zealous hardliner, or the revolutionary leader to show a weakness for
self-dramatization. (Andrew Marr – BBC journalist and
historian)

THE complexity of Paul’s doctrine of salvation is well known .
Its center  is the  non-Jewish  concept  of  the Savior,
Jesus who, being both human  and God’s own son  (Rom
8 3; Gal 4 4; Acts 9 20 etc.),
laid down his life on the Cross to atone for the sins of  many.  This notion…
… in Paul’s realistic sense,  was  alien  to  the  primitive  Jewish-Christian  community and, unless I am mistaken, has no parallels  in Jewish  thought.’ Genuinely  Jewish,  on  the  contrary,  is Paul’s   teaching  on atoning  suffering,  for  the  Synagogue
at that time maintained the atoning value of the suffering  of  certain  pious
individuals and probably also the doctrine of a suffering Messiah .
A third conception, however, furnishes the link between
these two non-Jewish and Jewish notions, and played, I believe, an important role in Pauline  soteriology:  the  symbolic  picture  of the ‘Aqedat YitslJaq (the sacrifice [literally, the binding] of Isaac), which atones for Israel’s sins.  (Hans Joachim Schoeps – Professor Uppsala)

Paul seems to acknowledge a parallel between

the Lord’s Supper and meals eaten in temples dedicated to gods like

Sarapis (1 Cor. 10:20–1). The suggestion that the bread and wine, consumed

in a wrong spirit, could have a destructive effect (1 Cor. 11:29–30) has an

unnerving ring. And Paul evidently saw a dangerous parallel between the

chaotic enthusiasm of the Corinthian worship (14:23) and the abandoned

ecstasy of the Dionysiac cult (12:2). (James Dunn – Professor Durham)

On the issue of the decisive influences on Paul’s theology, the tide began

to turn with the work of W. D. Davies, who protested against the undue History

of Religions concentration on Paul’s Hellenist background and insisted

that the key to understanding Paul was his Jewish origins.33 However, there

was a major stumbling block in any attempt to shed light on Paul from that

source – namely, the deeply rooted, albeit unconscious, prejudice in so much

Christian scholarship against Judaism. Judaism was what Paul had turned

away from, was it not? His conversion had surely liberated Paul from the

slavery of the law and from a legalistic Pharisaism. Was not his central doctrine,

justification by faith, formulated precisely in opposition to a Judaism

which taught that justification depended on one’s own efforts (‘works’)?

Thus it could be said that the History of Religions School had in effect continued

to be motivated by Baur’s conception of Christianity as a universal

religion which could become itself only by freeing itself from the narrow

particularistic bonds of Judaism. So far as the History of Religions School

and its heirs were concerned, it was the influence of the universal spirit of

Hellenism which had saved infant Christianity from a Jewish childhood of

stunted growth and enabled it to achieve maturity.

Every so often voices were raised against such a parody both of second

temple Judaism and of Paul’s debt to his Jewish heritage.34 But it was not until

E. P. Sanders attacked the parody in a bare-knuckled way that the wrongheadedness of much of the earlier disregard of Paul’s Jewish background

became widely recognized, although the bluntness of his polemic provoked

considerable resentment, particularly within German scholarship.

Sanders observed that the starting point for Judaism’s self-understanding

as the people of God (both second Temple Judaism and rabbinic Judaism)

was the covenant made by God with Israel; the covenant was nowhere regarded

in Jewish writings as an achievement of human merit. And although

Jews had the responsibility to maintain their covenant standing by obedience

to the law, the repeated emphasis on repentance, and the centrality

of a sacrificial system which provided atonement for the repentant within

Israel’s pattern of religion, meant that the characterization of that religion

as legalistic and merit-based was misconceived, unjustified, and prejudicial. (James Dunn – Professor Durham)

 

Is it so clear that Paul entertained no interest in the popularly

miscalled ‘historical Jesus’, when so many of his exhortations seem

to echo teachings explicitly attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels? (James Dunn – Professor Durham)

Paul’s conviction that the redemptive death of Christ also guarantees the justification of Gentiles through their faith and not by comparing their practice to that of Jews.  (Alan Segal – Professor Columbia)

The coming of the Messiah is surely a cornerstone of mature

rabbinic Judaism [i.e. post 70 CE], just as the rabbis cautioned against too easy belief in the Messiah’s arrival. And belief in the coming of the Messiah is evidenced throughout the later midrash.  Strangely enough, however, the Mishnah of Rabbi Judah the Prince carries scarcely a mention of the Messiah. Was this because the rabbis feared repercussions from the Romans or because they feared a further outbreak of messianism of the type that produced Christianity? In any event, it is not clearly present in the earliest rabbinic document. So then did Paul become messianic because he became a Christian or

was messianism a part of his Judaism before his conversion? It seems to

me quite improbable that the Pharisees before the Amoraim were devoid of

messianism and that Paul found it only when he became a Christian. Paul,

then, is again the earliest Pharisaic evidence of the existence of messianic

beliefs among the Pharisees, even if that belief was perhaps greatly augmented

and quickened by his later Christian faith. The messianic beliefs

and the eschatology of the Pharisees have never been seriously in doubt,

and no one seriously doubts that the messianic beliefs and the eschatology

of Christianity came from its Jewish past, yet were greatly augmented by

their experience of the resurrection of Jesus. But it is hardly noted that the

best proof of messianic beliefs in the Pharisees in the first century comes

from Paul.  (Alan Segal – Professor Columbia)  [italics added]

Paul’s dismissal of justification by works of the law was directed not so much against
Jewish legalism but rather against his fellow Jews assumption that the law
remained a dividing wall separating Christian Jews from Christian
Gentiles.  [from synopsis of “The New Perspective on Paul” by James Dunn Professor Durham]

St Paul, preaching the gospel in Athens, held a debate with Epicurean and

Stoic philosophers, and the sermon against idolatry placed in his mouth in

the Acts of the Apostles is skilfully crafted, and shows an awareness of

matters at issue between the philosophical sects. (Anthony Kenny – Professor Oxford)

share save 256 24 Pauls message about Jesus