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Jesus and Paul: Similarities and Differences

In my previous post I raised the question of whether Jesus and Paul represent fundamentally the same religion or not.  Here I continue the discussion by pointing out what seem to me to be the main similarities and differences between them, as I spelled it out in a post several years ago:

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I have been talking about the relationship of Jesus’ proclamation of the coming Kingdom of God to Paul’s preaching about the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the previous post I argued that the fundamental concerns, interests, perspectives, and theologies of these two were different. In this post I’d like to give, in summary fashion, what strikes me as very similar and very different about their two messages.

Again, in my view it is way too much to say that Paul is the “Founder of Christianity”: that assumes that he is the one who personally came up with the idea of the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation, whereas almost certainly this view had been around for a couple of years before he came onto the scene. And it is probably too much even to say that he was the “Co-founder of Christianity,” for much the same reason.

But it is safe to say that of all the early Christian thinkers and missionaries, Paul is the one we know best as the one who forcefully advocated this Christian message, in contradistinction to the message of Jesus. In the writings of Paul more clearly than almost anywhere else in the NT we see that the message *of* Jesus has become the message *about* Jesus: that is, the message that was preached by Jesus during his life was transformed into a message about the importance of his death.

In any event, Jesus and Paul do share similarities as well as differences.  Here is a rough summary:

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Jesus Kissing Mary Magdalene: A Blast From the Past
Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page?

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Comments

  1. SidDhartha1953  January 29, 2018

    It seems to me Jesus was fairly scrupulous about his observance of the law. People couldn’t have sought to touch the fringe of his prayer shawl if he didn’t wear one.




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  2. stokerslodge  January 29, 2018

    Bart, totally unrelated: have you gone into training for your upcoming debate with Michael Licona on February 21st? Maybe you could make a few remarks about this debate on your blog. I’m a little bit older that you are Bart so I’m sure you won’t take offence if I tell you, make sure you keep off the ropes. We don’t want you being hit with an uppercut! I’ll be watching the bout with great interest. I may not get to watch it live, but I hope it will be posted on YouTube afterwards.




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Ha! I haven’t even started to think about it! Guess I should, huh?




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  3. Drmagana  January 29, 2018

    Dr ehrman
    Christianity like an established religion is clearly set on paul teachings..paul put on a big trench between any kind of judaism and future understanding of the jewish ancient god.
    Paul gives a revolutionary idea with the atonement solution believing in his death and resurrection only. so the big question still is what or who did influence on paul’s teachings? For me there is no sense and not enough evidence for his behavior after all.
    Thanks for your time
    Best regards
    Dr magaña urzua




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  4. gavriel  January 29, 2018

    But any follower of Jesus, having had access to his original teaching, joining in after his death would have had to revise it, right?




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  5. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  January 29, 2018

    Special Thanks for this post. Concerning Jesus’ viewpoint in your final bullet point, is it correct to think that Jesus’ apocalyptic teachings were primarily intended for Jews whereas Paul’s extended to Gentiles?




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  6. talmoore
    talmoore  January 29, 2018

    “Both Jesus and Paul dismissed what they saw as the Pharisaic concern for the scrupulous observance of the Jewish Law as a way to obtain a right standing before God.”

    Have to disagree with that one. I don’t think Jesus “dismissed” the Pharisee’s praxis so much as he didn’t concern himself with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus’ main binary distinction was between those Jews who opposed the Roman occupation and those who willing collaborated with the Romans. For Jesus, the former would be saved and the latter would perish, regardless of how faithfully or rigorously they followed Pharisaic teachings on the Torah. For example, Caiaphas could have been the most Torah-observant Jew in Judea, but he would still perish because of his compliance with Rome. Meanwhile, a Galilean peasant could have the most clunky, naive — yet earnest! — approach to Torah observance, but as long as he opposed Roman rule, he would be saved.




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      In the Gospels at least his main opponents are Pharisees, not Zealots or collaborators.




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      • talmoore
        talmoore  January 30, 2018

        The impression one gets from the Gospels — though I’ll admit it’s not always explicit — is that the authors saw the Pharisees as in lockstep with the Romans and the Jewish authorities who collaborated with the Romans. The distinction between Pharisees and “collaborators” isn’t always clear. Sometimes they appear to want to help Jesus (e.g. Luke 13:31), but sometimes they appear to want to help Jesus’ Roman and Sadducee opponents (e.g. Matt. 12:14; John 7:32)




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      • talmoore
        talmoore  January 30, 2018

        I should also add that I question whether the Pharisees were truly Jesus’ opponents — that is, in historical reality. I think — and this is just my opinion — that Jesus rarely, if ever engaged with actual Pharisees during his preaching, and that the Jesus we see in the Gospels, arguing and interacting with the Pharisees, is actually a reflection of the Jerusalem Church’s conflict with the Jerusalem Pharisees in the years following Jesus’ death. Retconning those debates back to Jesus gave the arguments of the Jerusalem “Elders” more authoritative weight.




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  7. Wilusa  January 29, 2018

    A very helpful summary!

    But: “For Jesus, his own importance lay in his proclamation of the coming of the end and his correct interpretation of the Law.”

    Did he or didn’t he expect a major role for himself (possibly “King of the Jews”) in the coming Kingdom? For a non-Christian trying to form an opinion of him, that’s important. It affects whether one can *respect* him. I certainly can’t, if I think of him imagining a grandiose role for himself.




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  8. tompicard
    tompicard  January 29, 2018

    Are you a ‘biblical literalist’?
    not in the sense SHOULD the bible be taken literally, rather in the sense the authors/speakers INTENDED THAT the words they wrote/spoke should be taken literally?

    for instance was Daniel implying
    a) a beast would arise from the literal ‘SEA’ ? and also implying
    b) one like the son of man would appear on the literal ‘CLOUDS’ ?

    to believe that God’s intention is accomplished via supernatural miracles (as i think you are implying) is a very silly misunderstanding of Jesus’ message (and probably also Pauls), regardless of how widespread the idea




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Literalists do not (necessarily) deny the force of metaphor and simile.




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  9. Seeker1952  January 29, 2018

    Did the early Christian belief that Jesus himself (rather than an anonymous “Son of Man”) would be the “cosmic judge” precede in some way the belief that Jesus had been exalted to divine status by God through the resurrection?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      I think once they came to think he had been exalted only then did they think that he was the one coming back.




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  10. ddorner  January 29, 2018

    I believe it was in Jesus Interrupted where you talked about how Paul viewed sin as a demonic force that had power over the evil age. I’m curious if Jesus would have shared the same view of sin as Paul? Was that a common view among apocalypticists?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Jesus certainly believed in demonic forces; but he doesn’t talk ab out “sin” in this way. Paul sees sin and death as demonic; JEsus appears to have focused on actual demons (inhabiting people)




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  11. Seeker1952  January 29, 2018

    I believe you you consider Paul’s view of faith to be less a matter of intellectual assent and more a matter of loving trust in God and Jesus’s death and resurrection.

    Would you say that Paul’s view of faith also includes a strong note of mysticism, ie, mysticism in the sense that faith was a way “attaching oneself,” mystically, to Jesus, becoming part of Jesus’s “mystical body,” and in that way being saved by Jesus by being sort of “preserved” in him?

    Otherwise, the notion of being saved by faith, even if understood as loving trust, seems too arbitrary, too dependent on belief and attitude, too much of a simple “test,” to be plausible even in the context of the times.




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  12. mannix  January 29, 2018

    You state Jesus did not want to start a “new religion”. What then is the meaning of Mt 16,18: “…upon this rock I will build my church…”? Is this “church” simply Jesus’ interpretation of Judaism delivered in a unique way?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Yes, I was referring to the historical Jesus. Jesus in *Matthew’s* version absolutely thinks there will be a church built on his name after his death. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus himself actually thought, fifty years earlier.




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      • RVBlake  January 30, 2018

        Bart, you’ve just demolished the credibility of a line of about 1,600 years of Popery.




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  13. AlbertHodges  January 29, 2018

    Dear Bart:

    Could you refer me to your works or those of others that makes the case that Christ was not referring to Himself as the Son of Man?

    Thanks, Albert




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      The classic is Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus.




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  14. Seeker1952  January 29, 2018

    I agree with your view in the previous post on this topic that Paul and Jesus represent very different understandings of how salvation is attained. To me that makes them very different religions. Jesus was a Jew though a particular kind of Jew, ie, an apocalyptic Jew with an understanding of the Torah based fundamentally on love. I would say that, even though Paul didn’t invent Christianity, he’s the clearest early exponent of a new religion and one that’s different from the religion of Jesus.

    However, one big reservation that I have in taking this position is that the early Christians could be understood as trying to incorporate into Judaism a major insight they had from their experience of Jesus’s life, death (atoning sacrifice) and resurrection. Jesus emphasized love and repentance and forgiveness and the early Christians could have (over-)emphasized faith in recognition of God’s radical and fundamental love and forgiveness of them despite sin (eg, for example of abandoning Jesus when he was arrested). So people were expected to love and repent and forgive as Jesus taught but were also fortified by a conviction, based on their experience of Jesus, that God loved them no matter what. This conviction of God’s unconditional love could help them, at least in principle, to better love their neighbors as themselves despite their recurring and inevitable failures to do so. So faith, as trust in God’s love, entered into a tension-filled alliance with love of neighbor.




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  15. cheito
    cheito  January 29, 2018

    DR Ehrman:

    Your Comment:

    Jesus taught that the coming cosmic judge of the earth who would destroy the forces of evil and bring in God’s good kingdom was a figure that he called the Son of Man, someone other than himself, who could come on the clouds of heaven in a mighty act of judgment. Paul taught that Jesus himself was the coming cosmic judge of the earth who would destroy the forces of evil and bring in God’s good kingdom, who would come on the clouds of heaven in a mighty act of judgment.

    My Comment:

    DR Ehrman, you assertion that Jesus taught, that He was not the son of man, is based on what the authors of the the synoptic Gospels recorded in their accounts, and as you well know, the synoptic gospels are not historically reliable sources.

    The Gospel of John contradicts what the synoptic Gospels say about the son of man.

    Clearly, in the Gospel of John, when the ‘man born blind,’ (the man whom Jesus had recently healed), was asked by Jesus, ‘do you believe in the son of man?’, the man whom Jesus healed, replied, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?, and Jesus’ answer to him is unambiguous.

    Jesus clearly stated to the man he had healed, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” Of course Jesus is referring to Himself.

    My point, DR Ehrman, is that your assertion, that ‘Jesus taught that the Son of Man is someone other than himself, is not a solidly historical factual claim, because your assertion is based on unreliable sources. (i.e. the synoptic gospels) Therefore, you can not conclusively ascertain that Jesus in fact taught what you say, Jesus taught.

    __________________

    John 9:35-37

    35-Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

    36-He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

    37-Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.”

    _______________________________________________




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    • HawksJ  February 4, 2018

      Cheito, you make the following claim in most of your posts: “based on what the authors of the the synoptic Gospels recorded in their accounts, and as you well know, the synoptic gospels are not historically reliable sources”.

      On the contrary, though, Bart ‘knows’ nothing of the sort and regularly states that John is the least historically accurate of the four.




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      • cheito
        cheito  February 8, 2018

        HawksJ

        Your Comment:

        Cheito, you make the following claim in most of your posts: “based on what the authors of the the synoptic Gospels recorded in their accounts, and as you well know, the synoptic gospels are not historically reliable sources”.
        On the contrary, though, Bart ‘knows’ nothing of the sort and regularly states that John is the least historically accurate of the four.

        My Comment:

        For DR Ehrman to be correct is his assertion that the Gospel of John is the least historically accurate of the four, he has to believe that verses such as John 1:14, 19:35, and 21:24, were either added on later, and were probably not in the original manuscript of John.

        However we have no way of knowing for sure if these verses in John were added on later or if they were in the original manuscript, because we don’t have the original manuscript, and from what I have read the manuscripts that we do have, all include these verses in John I mentioned above.

        I understand that most modern scholars usually date the Gospel of John to have been written between AD 90-110. However this is not set in stone. There are also those scholars who believe that it was John the disciple, who later became the apostle John, who wrote the gospel of John.

        Therefore if the verses in John I mentioned above were in the original manuscript, then it was the disciple whom Jesus loved who wrote the accounts used in the Gospel of John.

        And If it’s true that John the disciple testified about the accounts recorded in John and he himself wrote the things chronicled in John, (of course for the exception of those stories that are not found in our most oldest manuscripts of John, i.e., The woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, that were probably added on by the scribes who copied John) then the accounts in John are most likely the oldest accounts of all the Gospels, and were most likely in circulation before the Synoptic Gospels.

        I can’t prove to you, or any one else, my gut feeling about the Gospel of John, but I can hypothesize just like everyone else is doing. (and that’s all these scholars, who maintain that John is the least historically accurate Gospel, are doing, they are speculating that John was the last Gospel written. They can’t prove it.

        It may be that the Gospel of John was published after the synoptic Gospels, but even if this assertion by most modern scholars is true, it does not take away from the fact that John claims to be an eyewitness who wrote what he saw and testified to, and if John testimony is true then the accounts in John were written by an eyewitness, i.e., the disciple who Jesus loved and therefore are older than the accounts in the synoptic Gospels.

        I’m not sure if DR Ehrman believes that the synoptic Gospels are not historical reliable, but I do think that DR Ehrman does know that hey are not historically accurate.

        To me, if the synoptic Gospels aren’t historically accurate, then they’re not historically reliable either in certain aspects, and useless to ascertain accurately what Jesus really said and did.

        For example, the accounts recorded by Matthew and Luke about the two criminals that were crucified alongside Jesus, one on His left and one on His right, are not historically accurate and therefore are not reliable sources to determine whether both criminals insulted Jesus as Matthew states in, (Matthew 27:44) or was it Just one criminal insulting Jesus and the other one defending him, as (Luke 23:39,40) states.

        What is Historically accurate is that Jesus was indeed crucified, but the details of what these two criminals actually said and did, are contradictory and therefore historically inaccurate and unreliable.

        The only historical fact we can know for sure is that Jesus was crucified and there were two criminals crucified alongside him, one to his right and one to his left. On this fact the gospel of John also agrees.

        ________________________________________________________

        John 1:14-And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

        John 19:35-And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.

        John 21:24-This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

        _______________________________________________________

        Matthew 27:44The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words.

        Luke 23:39,40

        39-One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”

        40-But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

        John 19:18 -There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.




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  16. fishician  January 29, 2018

    Seems to me Jesus’ version was more universal, as people could follow the essence of the Law without endorsing various specific beliefs (perhaps not even belief in Jesus, as in Matt. 25:31f). Paul’s version requires one to learn of and come to accept a number of hard-to-verify historical facts (like the resurrection) and a number of theological concepts (like atonement, blood sacrifice, baptism, etc.). Which leaves many (most) people in the world out. Looking forward to your new book, which perhaps sheds some light on why Paul’s version won out?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      To some extent, though I don’t approach it that way directly. My second chapter is all about Paul and his influence.




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  17. Apocryphile  January 29, 2018

    Isn’t it true that some scholars take the view that Jesus did indeed think of himself as the “Son of Man”? The “messianic secret” of Mark’s gospel seems to imply that Jesus did think of himself as, if not the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven, at least a messiah figure who was going to rule as the new king of Israel, with his disciples ruling over the twelve tribes. Or is the messianic secret simply Mark’s literary invention?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Most scholars think that. I’m just not one of them!




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      • Stanislaw Ruczaj  January 30, 2018

        Dr Ehrman, what do you think was the role of Last Supper in Jesus’ message? What does it say about his self-conception?

        Best wishes, Stanislaw




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        • Stanislaw Ruczaj  February 1, 2018

          Just one more question as a follow-up: don’t you think that the last supper shows that Jesus thought of himself as central in the God’s plan of salvation? That would disagree with your claim that “For Jesus, his own importance lay in his proclamation of the coming of the end and his correct interpretation of the Law.” If he believed that his death would be an atoning or protecting sacrifice for the sins of Israel, then surely he considered his importance in more grandiose terms?




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 1, 2018

            I don’t think we know waht Jesus said at his last meal.




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 1, 2018

          I don’t think we know what happened at Jesus’ final meal. In the *Gospels* of course he predicts his bloody death for hte salvation of others.




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          • Stanislaw Ruczaj  February 1, 2018

            Thank you for your reply! Maybe you could write about it, sometime! What interests me especially is why the early Christians connected bread and wine with Jesus blood and body? This seems and odd way to express their faith in the salvific death of Jesus!




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 2, 2018

            I think they made the connection because it was a Passover feast.




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      • Wilusa  January 31, 2018

        But…elsewhere, you *have* said you believe, or at least tend to believe, that Jesus saw himself as “a messiah figure who was going to rule as the new king of Israel, with his disciples ruling over the twelve tribes”! Which is it?




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 1, 2018

          Yes, Jesus thought that when the kingdom of God arrived in power, he would be made the king.




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      • Wilusa  January 31, 2018

        And another thought: You’ve said Judas’s “betrayal” almost certainly involved his telling the authorities that Jesus was calling himself the future “King of the Jews.” And I’m almost sure you indicated that you thought Jesus *had* been doing that, when he was alone with his disciples.

        Or am I confused about what part of Apocryphile’s post you were replying to?




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 1, 2018

          Yes, that’s what I’ve said. But I’ve never said Jesus thought he was teh cosmic son of man. That (other) one was coming from heaven to destroy th eforces of evil and set up God’s kingdom, over which Jesus would reign.




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  18. Stephen  January 29, 2018

    Did Paul’s vision of the risen Jesus shape an apocalypticism of some flavor that already existed for Paul or did Paul become an apocalypticist as a result of his vision? Any way to tell?

    thanks




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Yes, Paul was almost certainly an apocalypticist before becoming a follower of Jesus. THat’s why he interpreted his vision of Jesus as a resurrection appearance — he already had the category of resurrection deeply ingrained in him.




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  19. john76  January 29, 2018

    (i) Paul says “The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14).”
    (ii) Mark says “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these (Mark 12:31).”
    – I wonder if maybe this idea of Paul about “loving your neighbor as fulfilling the commandments” was just “floating around the Christian communities” when Mark was writing, and so Mark maybe just put this idea of Paul’s on Jesus’ lips, and the historical Jesus never said such a thing?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Yes, it may also go back to Jesus. There were other Jewish teachers who held this view as well.




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  20. ardeare  January 29, 2018

    I am going to use the Super Bowl as as a metaphor. God the Father is owner and head coach. Jesus is the offensive coordinator. He preaches to let your light shine before men in Matthew 5:16 and to persistently keep the commandments in Matthew 19:17. His defining message probably comes in Matthew 25:34-46 where he teaches people to be on the offensive in helping others. Indeed he understands that sometimes we will fumble, throw interceptions and commit penalties as seen in Mark: 10:18. But, he has a remedy; keep your head in the game Matthew 6:34, ask for forgiveness from the coach as seen in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and don’t give up in Matthew 24:13.

    Paul is the defensive coordinator. He teaches that a belief in the death and resurrection as seen in Romans 1:16-17 will alone bring salvation. If you fumble, get intercepted for a touchdown, or commit a penalty…………………they are sent to the replay booth where they are automatically overturned. Whether or not the offences were legitimate are unimportant because it has no bearing on the referee’s decision and points against you are erased. The question that I think many have pondered is: Are referee and scorekeeper the same as owner and coach?

    Well, there is one other question. Does Paul work for the New England Patriots? 🙂




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  21. doug  January 29, 2018

    I sometimes wonder how many important first century Christian leaders there were who we know little or nothing about. But Paul started some churches while traveling widely, and we still have some of Paul’s letters, “Luke” wrote about him in Acts, and his views were close enough to orthodox Christianity that his fame was preserved from early on.




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  22. godspell  January 29, 2018

    Paul can’t just say “Jesus was the messenger, and the message is what matters.” Even though that’s probably just what Jesus would have said he was. Paul can’t say that. To him, Jesus is the message, and the message is Jesus. But he, Paul, is there to explain the message to us. And to him, that can only be done in the context of raising Jesus above the rest of us, as high as a strict monotheist can do without admitting to himself that he sees this man as his God.

    Jesus was interested in how beliefs can shape behavior. Humans treat each other badly, because they are too wrapped up in their own selfish needs, and in meaningless rituals. If you live every day as if you believe you’ll be judged for your deeds at the end of it, you will stop violating the law of God, which commands us to love each other.

    Paul was interested much more in how behavior–ie, joining a community of fellow believers–can influence belief. Only those who believe correctly will be saved. Behavior is merely an outward sign of correct belief. This is not what Jesus taught, but it’s how Paul sees it. His epistles are meant to correct what he sees as deviations, errors, to establish orthodoxy. Jesus had faith that people who are meant to be in the Kingdom will end up there. Whether they are Jewish or not. If they have ears, they will hear. (Jesus obviously could not think everybody in the world who was of good will would hear his words, or be familiar with Jewish Law, and he believes the Kingdom is very near–so he’s got to believe God will judge everyone fairly, on the basis of their actions, not their religious doctrines).

    Paul is maybe more like Doestoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor–trying to save as many as he can, even if it means changing what Jesus said. He’s near the beginning of that process. You impose a set of beliefs, that everyone adheres to, and then you spread this as far as you can. He lacks the power to punish anyone who disobeys, maybe doesn’t want to believe that will be necessary, but that’s the direction he’s headed in.

    Jesus is about praxis. Paul is about theory.




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  23. Andrew  January 29, 2018

    Where you say Paul “hardly ever” quotes Jesus, what are the instances you are thinking about where he actually does quote Jesus?




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Maybe I”ll devote a post to this. But for openers, see 1 Cor. 11:24-25.




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      • Tony  January 30, 2018

        And I look forward to that post. But your opener reference above did not include the verse preceding:

        1 Cor. 11:23, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was handed over took a loaf of bread”.

        Paul claims he received this information from his Lord Jesus who, at the time, was definitely not an earthly resident. This was one of Paul’s revelations. Therefore, the concept originates with Paul, not Jesus.

        Not being a big believer in visions, fake or otherwise, I’d wonder where Paul got the idea of a bread and wine ceremony. The obvious answer – other mystery religions! His pagan God-fearers audience were familiar with those, and Paul’s addition of a bread and wine ceremony would have been welcomed.

        Enter Mark, who, decades later, decided to put Paul’s eucharist vision on the lips of Jesus of Nazareth at his last supper in Jerusalem – thereby successfully turning a convenient Pauline vision into a Christian practice lasting two thousand years.




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 1, 2018

          I was giving the verses that actually quote JEsus’ (alleged) words.




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          • Tony  February 1, 2018

            But context is critical. Paul alleges that these “words” were communicated to him from a heavenly Jesus. Do you take Paul’s statements in any way as coming from a real Jesus?




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 2, 2018

            Yes indeed. 1 Cor. 11 doesn’t ever refer to some kind of heavenly Jesus. Paul is explicitly talking about what happened at Jesus’ final meal.




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          • Tony  February 3, 2018

            “Yes indeed. 1 Cor. 11 doesn’t ever refer to some kind of heavenly Jesus. Paul is explicitly talking about what happened at Jesus’ final meal.”
            ————————————————————————
            Really? As an historicist put yourself in the intended readers’ mind reading 1 Cor. 11:23. Presumably, Jesus has been dead for 20+ years and now Paul writes that he received a revelation from the dead Lord Jesus. Paul intended his revelation to come from a heavenly Jesus and leaves no room for other options.




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  24. Todd  January 29, 2018

    I have a question about one phrase you used that is quite meaningless to me: what is meant by “having Faith in the death and resurrection of Christ.” ? I’m not even sure how to ask questions about the phrase. As it stands alone it is meaningless…It needs concrete amplification especially what having Faith in the death and resurrection is supposed to do in the life of the person having such faith?

    Following the ethics of Jesus is more concrete and understandable.

    There are many other Christian phrases that are as equally puzzling to me but if you could amplify a bit on that one I would be most appreciative. Thank you.




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      Yes, that is theological “short hand.” It means “trust that the death and resurrection of Jesus are what put’s a person into a right standing with God leading to their salvation.”




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  25. DavidBeaman  January 30, 2018

    Personally, I think they are different. As you said, Paul hardly ever quotes Jesus teaching. I think Jesus teaching was very important to Jesus. Also, Paul’s teaching centers on Jesus, whereas Jesus teaching centered on his Father, Abba, God. I think that Jesus’ death and resurrection was not something he expected, so it would not have been central to Jesus as it was to Paul.




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    • godspell  January 30, 2018

      I definitely think Jesus expected to die. Whether he expected to rise again–possible, but tend to think not.

      Probably Paul wasn’t the only Christian of his period who was very focused on the resurrection. (Wouldn’t you be? If you believed that had happened?) He’s elaborating more than some others, and he’s a better writer, a better theologian, if you will. He’s thinking it out further, and the further he thinks it out, the further he is from what Jesus meant. But that happens all the time, as ideas develop. Religious or otherwise.

      I think Jesus’ teaching was important to Paul–don’t see how it couldn’t be. However, the communities he’s writing to presumably know as much about that as he does, and what he’s concentrating on is differences of opinion (nobody’s going to challenge anything Jesus is known to have said).

      He’s trying to establish a uniformity of belief between these scattered groups. This went on for many centuries after Paul was gone, and it still does. People aren’t meant to all believe the same thing the same way.




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  26. deanegalbraith@yahoo.co.nz  January 30, 2018

    If we propose that the historical Jesus predicted that a ‘Son of Man’ figure (not Jesus) would come in the near future as cosmic judge, how do we account for these two pieces of evidence?:
    1. Even though the category of a ‘Son of Man’ coming on the clouds would have been highly convenient for Paul’s conception of Jesus, he never applies the term to Jesus.
    2. Even though the ‘Kingdom of God’ and its coming is central to the message of the historical Jesus, we never see any overlap in the Synoptics between Kingdom sayings and sayings about the coming ‘Son of Man’ (which led Philipp Vielhauer to conclude that they derive from two different strands of tradition).




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    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2018

      1. It’s because the phrase made sense in a Palestinian ARamaic-speaking context, but not so much in a pagan one, where it would be easily misunderstood; 2. I don’t think that’s true (even though scholars sometimes say it is). See e.g. Mark 8:38-9:1. (And remember: when Mark wrote these verses they were not in different *chapters*!!)




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  27. RonaldTaska  January 30, 2018

    It seems to me that a huge part of Paul’s theology resulted and evolved from the very traumatic need to understand the unexpected death of Jesus and how to deal with that unexpected death. It makes me wonder what Jesus actually thought about His death (was it also unexpected to Him?) and what He taught His disciples about His approaching death.

    With regard to your books, I still think your best is yet to be written: a spiritual autobiography tying all of your books together into one…..




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  28. Robert  January 30, 2018

    These two statements seem somewhat contradictory:

    “For Paul, Jesus’ importance had nothing to do with Jesus’ own teachings (which Paul hardly ever quotes) but strictly in his death and resurrection.”

    “Both Jesus and Paul taught the ultimate need of faith and saw the love [of] one’s neighbor as the summing up and fulfilling of the law, as the most important thing the followers of God could do.”

    Doesn’t the italicized summarize rather well the moral teaching of Jesus?




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2018

      Yup!




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      • Robert  February 1, 2018

        Then I would definitely not say that “For Paul, Jesus’ importance had nothing to do with Jesus’ own teachings” if in fact Paul agrees with Jesus’ teaching that “the love [of] one’s neighbor [is] the summing up and fulfilling of the law, as the most important thing the followers of God could do.”




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 2, 2018

          Yes, Paul certainly thought that this was a correct teaching (even though he never mentions that Jesus said it), and important. But if Jesus had simply been like other rabbis teaching the love commandment, Paul never would have become his devoted follower. It was the death and resurrection that ultimately mattered for him.




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          • Robert  February 2, 2018

            Of course, Paul was never a follower of Jesus until he experienced the resurrected Christ. Worse yet, he previously persecuted Jesus’ followers. But he did not merely preach the death and resurrection of Jesus; he set up communities in which he taught believers to live the love commandment, to worship God, etc, and was constantly dealing with all the difficulties that came about as a result of these communities, in which ‘the love [of] one’s neighbor, as the summing up and fulfilling of the law, was the most important thing the followers of God could do.’ In such a context, it cannot have been true that Jesus’ only importance was his death and resurrection and “had nothing to do with his own teachings.”




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  29. cheito
    cheito  January 31, 2018

    DR Ehrman:

    Your Comment:

    Both Jesus and Paul thought that this climactic moment of all human history was soon to come, it was right around the corner, it would be here within their own generation.

    My Comment:

    I’m convinced, that we CAN’T KNOW for certain, that Jesus Himself taught that He was returning in his own generation. The sources that quote Jesus saying such things are unreliable and we don’t have anything that Jesus himself wrote. Also there are other sources that mention nothing about Jesus returning soon. (i.e., Gospel of John and others)

    As for Paul, I don’t believe Paul taught that Jesus was coming in his own generation. Paul, surely, was no Harold Camping. Paul did not teach that Jesus was coming on a specific day, at a precise time. Paul did teach, according to certain sources, that specific events must first take place before the Lord’s return to earth. (g.e., in 2 Thessalonians: the son of perdition would have to be revealed first)

    Also, Paul’s letters have been edited and words have been added and/or taken away from them.

    A scribe, who believed that Jesus would return in his own generation, could’ve very well interpolated ideas such as: The ‘Lord is near’, which in some of Paul’s letters, seem out of context.

    In the letter to the Philippians, Paul’s words are not those of someone who believes that Jesus would return in his lifetime.

    Paul was busy working for Christ, but his desire was to leave and be with Christ.

    Paul is not expressing himself, in Philippians, as a person who believed, indubitably, that Jesus would return in his own lifetime.

    If Paul believed that Jesus was returning in his own generation, why, then, did Paul say to the Philippians that he was convinced that God wanted Him to stay with them a little longer.

    Note, that Paul DID NOT say to the Philippians, Jesus is returning soon and I’m going to be here with you until He returns.

    Paul said to the Philippians, I’ll stay with you a little longer. Paul was hoping that God would take him home soon. To Paul, dying, meant that he would literally be in Jesus presence.

    Again, Paul’s language in Philippians doesn’t convey to me that he believed Jesus would return in his own lifetime.

    ___________________________________

    Philippians 1:21-24

    21-For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

    22-But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.

    23-But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

    24-yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

    25-And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith




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    • godspell  February 1, 2018

      In my opinion, Jesus did believe the Kingdom was coming very soon, either in his lifetime, or shortly afterwards.

      Paul was writing decades later. Of course there’s some doubt by then. But more than that, Paul isn’t ready for the Kingdom to come. He likes what he’s doing. He wants to get more converts. He’s quite happy to spend the rest of his life converting gentiles and correcting scattered communities when they stray from what he considers the true path.

      Paul actually wants to start a new religion. Jesus never did.

      In the Kingdom, religion wouldn’t really be necessary, would it? I mean, there’s no need for faith in a realm administered by God and his angels. There’s no need for anyone like Paul.

      So that’s a conflict. That I’m not sure he ever faced head-on.




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      • cheito
        cheito  February 5, 2018

        godspell

        Your Comment:

        In my opinion, Jesus did believe the Kingdom was coming very soon, either in his lifetime, or shortly afterwards. Paul was writing decades later.

        Of course there’s some doubt by then. But more than that, Paul isn’t ready for the Kingdom to come. He likes what he’s doing. He wants to get more converts. He’s quite happy to spend the rest of his life converting gentiles and correcting scattered communities when they stray from what he considers the true path.

        Paul actually wants to start a new religion. Jesus never did.

        In the Kingdom, religion wouldn’t really be necessary, would it? I mean, there’s no need for faith in a realm administered by God and his angels. There’s no need for anyone like Paul.

        So that’s a conflict. That I’m not sure he ever faced head-on.

        My Comment:

        In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul’s words are not those of someone who believes that Jesus would return in his lifetime. (i.e.,Paul’s own lifetime)…Neither are Paul’s words, in Philippians, the words of a person who prefers to stay living on Earth. Yes, Paul was busy working for Christ, but Paul’s desire was to depart and be with Christ, as he states, in Philippians.

        Paul is not expressing himself, in Philippians, as a person who believed, indubitably, that Jesus would return in his own lifetime, and Paul obviously would rather be with Christ than to be on Earth.

        Paul believed that his citizenship was in Heaven. Paul was hoping that God would take him home soon. To Paul, dying, meant a departure from this world and literally the time to go and be with Jesus.

        If Paul was teaching that Jesus was returning in his own generation, why then, did Paul say to the Philippians that he was CONVINCED that God wanted Him to stay with them a little longer.

        Why a little longer? Is Paul saying, that he would go with the Lord soon, and that the Philippians would remain behind, living on earth?

        It would make more sense, (assuming that Paul really taught that Jesus was returning from heaven in his own lifetime), that Paul would say to the Philippians, Jesus is returning soon and I’m going to be here with you until the day He returns, but Paul doesn’t say that, Paul does say, that he was CONVINCED that God had told him, that he, Paul, would remain with the Philippians a little longer. This means that Paul would not only depart soon to go and be with Jesus, but that he would also depart from the Philippians. The Philippians were not going with Paul at this time.

        Again, Paul’s language in Philippians, doesn’t convey to me, that he believed, that Jesus would return in his own lifetime. (Paul’s own Lifetime), or that he was eager to be doing what he was doing.

        Paul didn’t have it easy. Paul wanted to go home, with Jesus. Paul doesn’t sound to me like a person who is convinced that Jesus would return in his own lifetime. (i.e, Paul’s own lifetime)




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  30. HawksJ  February 4, 2018

    “Again, in my view it is way too much to say that Paul is the “Founder of Christianity”: that assumes that he is the one who personally came up with the idea of the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation, whereas almost certainly this view had been around for a couple of years before he came onto the scene. ‘’

    Bart, do think Paul got all of his theology from others who ‘had been around before he came onto the scene’? In other words, none of it was original to him and all of it was ‘handed down to him’?




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 5, 2018

      I think what may have been original was the key point: gentiles do not have to start to follow the ways of Judaism to be the followers of Jesus.




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      • HawksJ  February 5, 2018

        Thank you.

        So, your sense is that all of the other complex ideas (besides expansion to the gentiles) that he works through in, for example, Romans, were acquired from somebody else?

        What is the evidence for that, other than his own claims (keeping in mind that one of his claimed courses is Jesus himself)?




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 6, 2018

          No, I don’t think that at all. I was saying that of the four or five major theological points of traditional Christianity (e.g., there is one God; Jesus is the Son of God; Jesus died for sins and was raised from the dead; this salvation comes by faith to everyone whether Jewish or not), only one of them was something that Paul appears to have come up with himself.




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          • HawksJ  February 6, 2018

            In your opinion, who first worked out the idea of the new law/covenant replacing the old law? In particular, the rather complex logic expressed in Romans that nobody, going back to Adam, is without sin, therefore requiring Jesus’ sacrifice?

            I would consider that (‘original sin’, for lack of a better term) to be foundational to Christianity; it is, in fact, integral to the whole story. It is also, of course, the real reason why the Creation story is so tightly held – and evolution so opposed. Without the notion of ‘total human depravity’, none of it makes any sense.

            Jesus certainly didn’t preach that the old Law was going away or that a new covenant was needed, so where did that concept come from?




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 7, 2018

            Replacing? I’m not sure. I suppose the book of Hebrews is close to that? As to the arguments in Romans, I think they are Paul’s. But he certainly didn’t have the doctrine of original sin as it was developed later (e.g., by Augustine)




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          • HawksJ  February 7, 2018

            In your opinion, who first worked out the idea of the new law/covenant replacing the old law? In particular, the rather complex logic expressed in Romans that nobody, going back to Adam, is without sin, therefore requiring Jesus’ sacrifice?

            I would consider that (‘original sin’, for lack of a better term) to be foundational to Christianity; it is, in fact, integral to the whole story. It is also, of course, is the real reason why the Creation story is so tightly held – and evolution so opposed. Without the notion of ‘total human depravity’, none of it makes any sense.

            Jesus certainly didn’t preach that the old Law was going away or that a new covenant was needed, so where did that concept come from?




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 9, 2018

            Paul’s detailed arguments in Romans are probably his formulations. But he didn’t think the new covenant *replaced* the old one. He thought it stood in complete continuity with the old one.




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