Saturday, December 04, 2010

Scot McKnight on Jesus and Paul

Over at CT, Scot McKnight has an article on Jesus and Paul which is well worth checking out!

I think Scot is hitting at what is quite possible the major issue in biblical theology for evangelicals. How do you read Jesus and Paul together? How does Jesus' kingdom message line up with Paul's theology of justification?

Scot's own solution is: "The gospel is first and foremost about Jesus. Or, to put it theologically, it's about Christology. Behind or underneath both kingdom and justification is the gospel, and the gospel is the saving story of Jesus that completes Israel's story. "To gospel" is to tell a story about Jesus as the Messiah, as the Lord, as the Son of God, as the Savior ... Excuse me for piling on here, but only when we grasp the gospel as the saving story about Jesus that completes Israel's story do we see the profound unity between Jesus and Paul. Both "gospeled" the same gospel because both told the story of Jesus."


Emerson Fast said...

Two thoughts,

First of all, it seems odd that Scot presents Jesus' fulfillment of "Israel's story" as one of the deepest elements uniting the Pauline literature and the gospels. Why this particular theological aspect as opposed to other elements like the forgiveness of sins, the message of love, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit etc...?

Scot cited Paul's gospel summary in 1 Cor.15, yet one could easily cite Gal.1:3-5 to prove a different point. Perhaps the unifying theme in both is "Jesus came to rescue us from evil according to the will of the Father". Leitmotifs of deliverance from evil and "the Father's will" are sundry in the synoptics and John. To unite both strands of tradition under "the Savior Jesus and his fulfillment of Israel's story" seems more like a promotional move in favor of "NPP" polemical language than a sound exegetical thesis.

Secondly, that Paul only refers to the concept of "kingdom" 15 times covers over the fact that for Luke, the whole content of Paul's kerygma can be summed up under the phrase "kingdom of God" (Ac.28:23).

Following Luke's interpretation, all of Paul's extensive talks on "justification by faith apart from law-works" cannot and should not be divorced from what Paul understands the message of the "kingdom" to truly be. That Paul does not adopt Jesus' language verbatim is beside the point. Both of them flood their pedagogy with descriptions of the rule of God.

John Thomson said...

If I were to look for a unifying theme it would be Jesus Christ.

God jealously guards the unique focus of Christ. Whatever other 'tents' we try to make disappear and we see Jesus only.

He is the unifying theme. All other themes are in relation to him...Israel's story or whatever.

All other themes integrate in him just as all things in the universe hold together in him.

Emerson Fast said...


I like your thesis even better. "The saving story of Jesus that completes Israel's story" presents to me a Jesus who stands behind a mountain of salvation history that is, after all, greater than Him rather than vice versa. Or it presents a Jesus who is enthroned on top of a mountain of revelation which is, nevertheless,the REAL mountain in question. Or it gives us a Jesus who stands beside Israel's story as if both are enthroned as Lord.

As soon as Israel becomes the presupposition of Jesus rather than Jesus the presupposition of Israel....I say out with Israel!

stc said...

Scot's answer to the question he posed makes no sense to me. The whole issue is, Jesus didn't preach himself! He preached the Kingdom and/or pointed people to his merciful Father.

To say that Jesus and Paul are in agreement insofar as the Gospel is all about Jesus, is eisegesis — it is to put Paul's theology into Jesus' mouth.

Emerson Fast said...


Jesus often referred to the kingdom of God as that which rightfully belongs to the Son of Man. Take for instance his Parable of the Weeds. "The kingdom of heaven is like...." (Mt.13:24). Jesus' own interpretation of the story: "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of HIS KINGDOM everything that causes sin..." (13:41). In Matthew 16:28 Jesus says,"...some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in HIS KINGDOM."

The rule of the Father is intimately linked with the rule of the Son. All things were committed to Jesus in the Synoptics, and know one may know the Father apart from the Revelation given by Christ the King.

Harnack had his head buried in the sand on this count.