Saturday, May 24, 2008

Paul and the Synoptics: What Kind of Relationship?

After talking to my co-blogger Joel Willitts by email, I am intrigued about the possible relationship of Paul to the Synoptic Gospels. This is something I intend to get to pursue further one day (but until then it would make a great Ph.D thesis for some brave soul). Usually, Paul's relationship to the Synoptic Gospels goes something like this:

1. Mark: Pro-Pauline in so far as Mark has a a theology of the cross, believes in the inclusion of the Gentiles, and shares Paul's critique of Jesus' family and the circle of twelve apostles (e.g. Mk. 1.15, 7.19, 24, 10.45, 13.10; see Joel Marcus).

2. Matthew: Anti-Pauline in as much as Matthew gives a strenuous affirmation of a law-obedient Jesus and affirms the authority of Peter (e.g. Mt. 5.17-20, 16.16; see David Sim).

3. Luke: Post-Pauline to the extent that Luke clearly venerated Paul but feels no need to slavishly follow him (e.g. Luke has far more on resurrection/exalation than the cross and basically omits reference to justification in apostolic preaching; see Martin Hengel).

Truth be told this is all a bit simplistic. I know James Crossley would certainly have something to say about the validity of (1) and I myself, with Joel Willitts, would contest (2) and I think even (3) needs a fair bit of nuancing. Of course, if one wants to really boggle one's mind, then a comparison/contrast of Paul and John would stretch the mind as it would be rather like juxtaposing two intergalactic eco-systems.


Bob MacDonald said...

The unity of the multiple witnesses of the NT is found in the TNK. My ongoing study of the psalms is opening for me a less partisan view of where NT writers might get their rationales from. I find the suggestion of 'conflict' between NT writers themselves less than credible as a motivation for any part of their writing. Definitely there was conflict, but the greater motive is the experience of love in the same way as the psalmist knew it.

So Mark whether he is the John Mark of Acts or the man who saw trees walking or the one who ran away naked in the garden has a focus that includes the Matthean saying: you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. - I.e. a potential source of a unified vision with Matthew - no anti-Pauline or anti-Torah sentiment.

And Matthew so strong on 'Law' does not represent a conflict with Paul either - as Paul himself writes - whoever does the Law will live by it. They are both thoroughly grounded in love of Torah.

As to Luke lacking reference to justification in apostolic preaching, I expect the perspective in which forgiveness through the death of the Just one (Acts 7:52) will be found is again in the Psalms - Luther's 'little bible'.

What I would like to see is a study of the use of the Psalter in the writing of the Evangelists and Paul - with a focus on how this foundation provides continuity with the experience of the chosen in the invitation to and engagement with the covenant and its Author and Finisher.

Shawn said...

In regards to this post, I have a question. I recently heard someone say, "I read all Pauline works through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount." What do you do with a statement like that? Where would you begin to point out the flaws?