Intermission: Cards on the table

So, I'm wrestling with this question Zach posed the other day: Did Jesus abolish the Law or didn't he (ie. Did Paul contradict Jesus)?"

There are many ways to wrestle with this question and not all of those ways will come to the same conclusions. The theory that Paul created Christianity is wildly popular. Check the Christianity section in Barnes & Noble and you'll find loads of books claiming that Christianity should really be called 'Paulianity' (or 'Constantinianity', or 'Robbellianity').

But I don't buy those theories. And I certainly don't approach these questions from a point of objectivity or neutrality. I'm postmodern enough to say that I don't believe that questions like these can ever be approached with neutrality. An awareness of one's presuppositions can be very helpful when wrestling with questions like these.'re some of mine.

1) Neutrality is overrated
2) The New Testament was written in Greek, not English
3) Words matter
4) Jesus meant something
5) So did Paul
6) Their intentions matter
7) The Bible is perspicuous
8) There is a right way around the analogical circle of predication
9) Bombasticity can make you sound pretentious
10) The Bible was written over time
11) The Bible was compiled over time
12) The folks who pulled the Bible together did so intentionally
13) They didn't see any major contradictions
14) 'Major' is a major word
15) Jesus doesn't say "major" even once
16) Jesus did have a lot to say
17) Some of those words are recorded in the Bible
18) Jesus spoke to a particular primary audience
19) Paul wrote to a particular primary audience
20) Their audiences weren't the same audiences
21) Those primary audiences weren't us
22) Their words still matter to us
23) The Bible is our rule for faith and practice
24) The Bible contains no contradictions
25) At least, not on anything important
26) When Jesus and Paul appear to contradict, keep digging
27) By digging, I mean googling, word studies, and asking questions
28) I can't do this digging by myself (not smart enough)

I have a lot more cards, but I thought it might be helpful for you to see these before we move on.


  1. So, there are people around who claim that Paul started Christianity? What do they say about the resurrection?

  2. The resurrection, according to this crowd, was either:
    a myth
    a spiritual event
    a misunderstood metaphor

    They don't know Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel or Frank Morison.

  3. :)
    That's the ball game, isn't it? It's the Resurrection or nothing. Buy the Resurrection and Paul is not the founder but an expositor. Dismiss the Resurrection and Paul, by his own admission (ICor 15), is full of baloney. It is encouraging that you are right on the beam with those popular authors who make the historical case for the Resurrection quite well. But, there is another guy who really opened my eyes on the subject. I think he was a Cambridge prof. He argues that if we dismiss the Resurrection (as an historical event) we must dismiss all of ancient history because the proof and the record for the resurrection is far better than the proof for any other ancient event. (We know the names and addresses of 15 eyewitnesses to the Resurrection - try that for any other ancient event) That is, the proof of the resurrection is of better recency, quality and greater magnitude than the proof for, say, the battle of Thermopylae. If I kind find that guy's name (I really ought to remember it) I'll post it.

  4. I used this quote in a talk a few years ago:

    “To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”
    History and Christianity, John Warwick Montgomery

    I wonder if he said something similar about the Resurrection?

  5. I'll bet that's the guy I was talking about. To me, it is all of a piece. If we credit the New Testament, we have to credit the Resurrection, and for the same reasons. Was Montgomery a professor? I'm going to try to find that lecture today.

    One of the things that impressed me about this guy's lecture on the New Testament was that it is not just the case that the New Testament is pretty well documented or about as good as anything else. The way he explained it, nothing else even comes close. So there. History really does center on Christ. It is, literally, his-story. Thus, it is not a matter of education making us doubt the faith of our fathers, rather, honest scholarship should produce just the opposite result.