I have been discussing at some length the rise of Jewish apocalyptic ways of thinking. I decided to do so not only because it’s so interesting and important on its own terms (which it is, at least for me) but also because I wanted to talk about the apostle Paul’s understanding of salvation (how do you get it?) and I realized that I couldn’t do that without talking about apocalypticism.
My reason for talking about Paul’s view of salvation was because I wanted to ask if he had the same as Jesus. A rather important issue and actually controversial. But I realized I couldn’t discuss either without discussing Jewish apocalyptic thought. Hence the thread. You don’t need to have read all the preceding posts to make sense of this one and the ones to come; but if you end up wondering more about some of the things I talk about, the posts are there in case you want to check them out.
I have not dealt with the theological views of Paul and Jesus in relation to one another for a very long time on the blog (eight years ago!) (although recently I did talk about the equally interesting question of how much Paul actually knew about the life of Jesus). When I did so all that time ago, it all started in response to a question. And here it is!
There is no doubt that Paul had visions of Jesus. And as we all agree the gospels (and Acts for that matter) were written AFTER Paul and certainly influenced BY Paul. In one way or another they reflect his way of thinking (to a certain degree).
Wouldn’t it be possible that the story of visions started with Paul only and was incorporated into the gospels because… well, how could it be that Jesus appeared to Paul and not to his disciples?
I find it suspicious that there are such deep discrepancies in the different accounts of Jesus post-resurrection appearances….
In other words: Couldn’t Paul be the sole starting point of this vision thing?
This question gets to the heart of a very big issue: what was Paul’s role in the development of early Christianity. Is he responsible for starting it? Was he the first to claim that Jesus had appeared after his death, as the risen Lord of life? Is Paul the real founder of Christianity? Should we call it Paulianity?
Maybe I’ll devote a post or two to that question, as it is completely fundamental to understanding the beginnings of the Christian religion. In this post I’ll deal with the question this reader has asked directly; my answer will, of course, be related to the larger issue.
So my basic view is that Paul could not have been the sole source for the idea that Jesus was raised from the dead. I have a very big reason for thinking that he was not, and a subsidiary reason for it. There are probably lots of other reasons, but these two stand out in my mind.
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