A Pauline Rant

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 6, 2004

The next time I hear someone say a variation of "I like Jesus, but I can’t stand that Paul guy," I am going to have a conniption fit.   It is perhaps the sexiest trend in Biblical studies (or unbiblical studies…tee hee) to disparage Paul the Apostle.  It seems that the doctrinizing ways of Paul are evil and coercive.  Unlike the gentle easy way of lamby Jesus. 

Now, down’t get me wrong…I would agree that there is a big problem in Pauline studies.  As Paul is often understood, there is a big conflict between Jesus and Paul.  It would seem, at first blush, that Jesus tried to start something revolutionary…a revolution of love.  And then mean ol’ Paul came along and tried to organize the revolution.  It is kinda like what the followers of Saint Francis did after he died…they organized and somewhat sold out.  If you hate organized religion, who better to gun after than that ol’ bastard of organization, Paul?  But such an understanding is a misunderstanding.  Paul isn’t the great creator of what-we-hate-about-Christianity.  Paul was largely disorganized.  He was an Apostle–not a Bishop or a Pope.  He and other apostles like him spent their lives on the road helping the fledgling Church remain faithful to Christ Crucified.  He didn’t impose ecclesial structures–he just made sure that each church had elders (teachers of the word who lead by example) and deacons (doers of the word who help care for the needs of the congregation). 

Those who argue that Paul sounds nothing like Jesus are misreading Paul.  Of course he used different vocabulary–he was an apostle to Gentiles! He couldn’t toss around words like "Kingdom of God" and "Messiah"–these words mean nothing to Gentiles.  He had to instead use terms like "salvation" and "Christ (annointed one)" etc. 

The problem is that we’ve read Paul through the lens of Luther.  And then we look through that new double-lens into the Gospels and find ourselves often confused.  What if we were to read Paul through the lens of the Gospel?  If we did that, we’d find that Paul makes sense after all, and that he is a friend to Jesus the Messiah. 

for further reading . . .

  • None Found


3 Responses to “A Pauline Rant”

  1. on December 7th, 2004 10:30 am

    A Pauline rant

    From MissionThink: Those who argue that Paul sounds nothing like Jesus are misreading Paul. Of course he used different vocabulary–he…

  2. Chris on December 7th, 2004 11:22 am

    Man, you’re totally right, I hate Pauline too, she’s sooooooooo bossy, and she…oh wait. I just read your post and…I thought you were talking about someone else. Yeah, Paul and Jesus got along, eventually (I still can’t stand Pauline).

  3. Jesse G on December 11th, 2004 11:06 am

    “The gentle easy way of lamby Jesus” = What I will now refer to my faith as from this point onwards.

Got something to say?