Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jesus Interprets Paul?

On another blog, someone made this comment, and it's been bugging me.

Jesus interprets Paul. Not the other way around. Everything Paul writes should gain it's context and tone through the filter of Jesus. Paul (along with the other writers in NT) was inspired by the Holy Spirit. So if there are things Paul writes or implies that doesn't SEEM to jive with the person of Jesus as seen in the's just a matter of deferring to Jesus until one gets a better understanding of Paul's intent through study or simply the Holy Ghost.

Is this just a matter of "tie goes to the runner," or is there more at work here? It seems to stem from the notion that the "words in red" should be given more weight than the rest of Scripture. But are Jesus' words more important or more inspired than Paul's, or John's, or David's? I don't think so.

This notion seems to contravene the idea of progressive revelation. God's plan becomes more clear as we move throughout the Bible because He has revealed more of it as we move throughout the ages. So it would seem that, all things being equal, it would be Paul interpreting Jesus, not the other way around. And in general, I think Paul's writing is much more fleshed out in his theology than the Gospels.

I also see the potential for abuse with this. For example, someone could claim that Jesus takes no position on homosexuality, but Paul does. You could potentially have someone who waffles on homosexuality (or worse), and uses Jesus as their basis for doing so.

Bottom line - it bothers me because it goes against what I've learned about Scripture. But I could always be wrong.

So I'm looking for input.


Even So... said...

Jesus interprets Paul. Not the other way around.

He is wrong.




Anonymous said...

I also think it is walking on thin ice to say things like “Jesus interprets Paul,” but perhaps it could also be misleading to say, “Paul interprets Jesus.”

Why do I say this? It isn’t that I don’t think Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, contributes clarification (revelation) to the words of Christ, I believe he does. It is just that saying things like that might give a person outside the faith the wrong impression. An outsider may think that we’re implying the Scripture isn’t in harmony with itself, and that we’re pitting Jesus vs. Paul, Paul vs. James etc.

Progressive revelation tends to be how I view the Word too. I think that much of what has run amok in the church could be corrected by applying the principle of progressive revelation. It is likely more helpful to illustrate for people how all the 66 books are complimentary to each other, and that you can’t pick and choose what to take and what to discard.

We need to educate people that it isn’t ‘either / or’ but rather the entire counsel of God’s Word taken as a whole.

I also agree with those who say that when something is hard to understand in Scripture it is often wise to let the parts which are abundantly clear guide our understanding of what is more vague.

In a nutshell, we should impress upon those who are uncertain about Biblical priorities that Jesus speaks through Paul just as much as Jesus speaks through the Gospels…just as much as Jesus speaks through David. He is the Sovereign Lord who happened to use Paul’s pen and voice to get His message out. The epistles of Paul don’t deviate from the message of Christ…they finely tune it in. Paul's writing is certainly not ever in conflict with Christ. The Holy Spirit enabled Paul to write boldly and more broadly about things that were more obscure in the Gospels. And John was given prophecies on Patmos that illuminate obscurities in the book of Daniel. This doesn’t mean that Daniel is a lesser book, or less God’s Word. What this means is that they are both parts of God’s singular Word, and that Revelation is crucial to our understanding of Daniel. Etc.

Those are just my quick, off the cuff thoughts on the subject. I’m liable to be wrong too.


Gummby said...

J.D.: Care to elaborate?

Tom: I agree with what you've said. I started to go into some of it, but decided I'd never get the post done if I didn't cut it off. There is more to the interpretation of Scripture than what we've written, but not less.

Of course, I was having a hard time thinking of examples of where Jesus & Paul would disagree anyway - precisely for the reasons that you've outlined above. Reading a single book of the Bible and then thinking you've got all the theology wrapped up is like picking a chapter at random from a geometry textbook and then saying you've read all about geometry.

Even So... said...

Tom did it good enough...someone who thinks like this probably has a whole host of other assumptions that we would have to wade through before any meaningful dialogue might take place...

Even So... said...

BTW, Happy Thanksgiving Matt...we aren't coming that way this year, we got 'em comin to the old folks home (er, us)...

BugBlaster said...

Whole counsel of God...

Celal Birader said...

Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles (that's what the Bible says, my friend). The content and thrust of Paul's epistles, if you think about them, are about bringing Gentile pagans into what might be called the Hebraic faith. The best one can say is that Paul interprets Jesus to a Gentile pagan audience.

Anonymous said...

paul is not deity. jesus is the express image of god, the very character, eikon, in paul's words. he is the maximal expression of the father that finite humans can comprehend. we better use our primary understanding of jesus to interpret everything in scripture.