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Jesus, Paul and the Gospels
Contents:
  1. The Preparation of Paul
  2. On Not Being a Sausage: What did Paul know of Jesus and the Gospels?
  3. Account Options
  4. Cookies on the BBC website

As we can see, here Paul is about to define gospel, and in fact, this is the only text in the New Testament that does so. What he says next is crucial:. First, this is the gospel handed on to Paul v.


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Third, the essence of the gospel is the story of Jesus vv. Both the word Christ Messiah and the phrase "according to the Scriptures" are central to how the apostles understood the word gospel. Fourth, there's not a word here about either kingdom or justification! Sure, you can probe "for our sins" until both themes bubble up to the surface, but we should at least let Paul be Paul when it comes to defining the gospel.

Added together, it means this: The gospel is first and foremost about Jesus. Or, to put it theologically, it's about Christology. Behind or underneath both kingdom and justification is the gospel, and the gospel is the saving story of Jesus that completes Israel's story. Thus, the question of whether the gospel of Jesus and the gospel of Paul are the same is radically reshaped.

The Preparation of Paul

The question is not, "Does Paul preach the kingdom? The entire New Testament comes together by answering all these questions. And the answer is Yes, Jesus preached himself as the completion of Israel's story. Jesus preached the gospel of Paul, of Peter, of John because Jesus preached himself. Any reading of the Gospels, and any Gospel will do, leads constantly to this question that Jesus himself asked those who saw him and heard him: "Who am I?

On Not Being a Sausage: What did Paul know of Jesus and the Gospels?

Let's start with Jesus' teaching about the kingdom. His inaugural sermon in his hometown synagogue, at Nazareth, is a profoundly and properly egocentric statement about himself. We miss the essence of this passage if we reduce the story to kingdom only. Jesus reads from Isaiah , a passage about end-time kingdom redemption.

But what we need to note is that Jesus thinks he is the agent of that redemption, that he is none other than the "anointed" one. Another key kingdom text is Luke John the Baptist asks whether or not Jesus is the "one who was to come.


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The last line is arresting in its bold claim: "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me " emphasis mine. In other words, Jesus claims that he fulfills those Scriptures. This last text leads us to a set of Gospel texts that I call the "Who am I?

Who are you? In these passages, Jesus and John the Baptist are in dialogue with one another and with others about who they are.

I fear we skip over these passages because we know them too well. But let me suggest we ask a question about these Jesus and John conversations: What kind of people run around asking others who they are? And when they ask such questions, do they assume that the answers are found in the persons and predictions of the Bible? Which of us says to another, "Who do you think I am? Jesus and John seemed to have carried on a conversation about who they were. And while John doesn't seem always to be certain of who he is, Jesus always is certain about both who John is and who he is. Who did others think Jesus was?

Matthew Who did others think John was? John Who did John think John was? Who did John think Jesus was? Matthew ; Luke Who did Jesus think John was? Mark Who did Jesus think Jesus was? Luke There is something here that courses through the pages of the Gospels: Jesus and John see themselves as the ones who complete Israel's story, and their story is the saving story. Jesus may have spoken of kingdom, and Paul may have spoken of justification, but underneath both kingdom and justification is Christology: It is the story about Jesus, who is Messiah and Lord and who brings the kingdom and justifies sinners by faith.

Excuse me for piling on here, but only when we grasp the gospel as the saving story about Jesus that completes Israel's story do we see the profound unity between Jesus and Paul. Both "gospeled" the same gospel because both told the story of Jesus. For example, what kind of person says this: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" Matt. Jesus overtly declares that the entire Law and Prophets point to him and are fulfilled in him, which is to "gospel" exactly as does Paul, who says it this way: "according to the Scriptures.

What kind of person chooses the symbolic number twelve, which connects to the formation of Israel as a twelve-tribe people and also to the hope for the revival of the ten lost tribes? But there's more: Jesus does not include himself because he perceives himself to be the Lord of the Twelve. Jesus, by appointing twelve, saw history coming to completion and saw himself as Lord of that completion.

Account Options

That is gospeling! And it's the gospel of all the apostles. What kind of person predicts more than once that he will not only die but also rise, as Jesus does in Mark ? What kind of person sums up his life as the Son of Man who came to give his life as a ransom for many, but does so in ways that combine Daniel 7's Son of Man vision with Isaiah 's servant image? That is what we find when we combine Mark with Mark What kind of person sees himself as the Passover, as Jesus does at the Last Supper? Here Jesus synthesizes profound images, makes sense of his own life through those images, and declares that he himself is the redeeming, forgiving agent for Israel.

Again, we are right where Paul was in 1 Corinthians 15, when he said Jesus died "for our sins. My contention, then, is simple: If we begin with kingdom, we have to twist Paul into shape to fit a kingdom vision. If we begin with justification, we have to twist Jesus into shape to fit justification.

But if we begin with gospel, and if we understand gospel as Paul does in 1 Corinthians , then we will find what unifies Jesus and Paul—that both witness to Jesus as the center of God's story. The gospel is the core of the Bible, and the gospel is the story of Jesus. Telling others about Jesus leads to both the kingdom and justification—but only if we begin with Jesus.

Scot McKnight is the Karl A. Click for reprint information. Go to ChristianBibleStudies.

Paul ," a Bible study based on this article. CT has posted several short videos of Scot McKnight talking about his cover story. Already a subscriber? Log in to continue reading. To unlock this article for your friends, use any of the social share buttons on our site, or simply copy the link below. To share this article with your friends, use any of the social share buttons on our site, or simply copy the link below. Sections Home. Prayer Abortion Fatherhood.

Subscribe Subscriber Benefits Give a Gift. Subscribers receive full access to the archives. Jesus vs. Paul Many biblical scholars have noted that Jesus preached almost exclusively about the kingdom of heaven, while Paul highlighted justification by faith—and not vice versa. Scot McKnight December 3, This article is from the December issue. Subscribers can read all of CT's digital archives. Article continues below. Free Newsletters. Email Address. Subscribe to the selected newsletters. More Newsletters. Get the best from CT editors, delivered straight to your inbox! Evangelicalism is facing a crisis about the relationship of Jesus to Paul, and many today are choosing sides.

We can't find much in the Gospels that shows Jesus thinking in terms of 'justification by faith.

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Reply on Twitter. Join in on Facebook. Issue: December , Vol. More From: Scot McKnight. Current Issue. Read This Issue. Log in. December More from this Issue. Read These Next Trending. Cover Story. Committees are bland affairs, and tend to reinforce our expectations; but the world of late antiquity is so remote from our own that it is almost never what we expect.

Ask, for instance, the average American Christian — say, some genial Presbyterian who attends church regularly and owns a New International Version of the Bible — what gospel the Apostle Paul preached. The reply will fall along predictable lines: human beings, bearing the guilt of original sin and destined for eternal hell, cannot save themselves through good deeds, or make themselves acceptable to God; yet God, in his mercy, sent the eternal Son to offer himself up for our sins, and the righteousness of Christ has been graciously imputed or imparted to all who have faith.


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  • Some details might vary, but not the basic story. Others like the concept of an eternal hell of conscious torment are entirely imagined, attributed to Paul on the basis of some mistaken picture of what the New Testament as a whole teaches. But for Paul, pistis largely consists in works of obedience to God and love of others. This, though, means that the separation between Jews and gentiles has been annulled in Christ, opening salvation to all peoples; it does not mean as Paul fears some might imagine that God has abandoned his covenant with Israel.

    Questions of law and righteousness, however, are secondary concerns. For Paul, the present world-age is rapidly passing, while another world-age differing from the former in every dimension — heavenly or terrestrial, spiritual or physical — is already dawning. The story of salvation concerns the entire cosmos; and it is a story of invasion, conquest, spoliation and triumph.

    In the Letter to the Galatians, he even hints that the angel of the Lord who rules over Israel might be one of their number. Whether fallen, or mutinous, or merely incompetent, these beings stand intractably between us and God. But Christ has conquered them all. In descending to Hades and ascending again through the heavens, Christ has vanquished all the Powers below and above that separate us from the love of God, taking them captive in a kind of triumphal procession. God himself, rather than wicked or inept spiritual intermediaries, will rule the cosmos directly.

    Sometimes, Paul speaks as if some human beings will perish along with the present age, and sometimes as if all human beings will finally be saved. He never speaks of some hell for the torment of unregenerate souls. And, in varying registers, so do most of the texts of the New Testament. As I say, it is a conceptual world very remote from our own. For one thing, the ancient picture of reality might be in many significant respects more accurate than ours. But, before we decide anything at all about that story, we must first recover it from the very different stories that we so frequently tell in its place.

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