One of my major goals as a professor of New Testament is to get my students to understand that the NT is not a single entity with a solid and consistent message. There are numerous authors who were writing at different times, in different parts of the world, to different audiences, and with different – sometimes strikingly different – understandings about important issues. In fact, about key issues, such as who Jesus was and what his role was in salvation.
One of the assignments that I used to give was to have students compare Matthew’s view of salvation with that found in Paul. Specifically, what is the role of doing what the Law demands and of doing good deeds? If someone abides by the law and does good deeds for others – will that bring about salvation?
The way I get them to think about those questions is by looking at two passages, one in Matthew and the other in Paul. The first is Matthew’s version of the “rich young ruler” (he’s actually not a “young ruler” in any of the Gospel accounts; in one he’s young and in another he’s a ruler: but that’s just what the passage is typically called). According to this passage, how does one receive eternal life? Here’s the passage.
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