It is one of the fashions of recent criticism, though its beginnings go farther back, to set Paul against Jesus, and represent the Apostle as, even more than the Master, the real author of historical Christianity.
In support of this charge, the contrasts between the simpler teaching of the Gospels (John being left out) and the elaborated theology of Paul, starting from, and laying all but exclusive stress on, the death and resurrection of Jesus, are dwelt upon and strongly exaggerated. Paul, it is held, knew little of, at least cared little for, the earthly life and teaching of Jesus; his interest was absorbed in the Heavenly Being who had appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and in the supposed meaning of his death and resurrection for the salvation of the world. In interpreting these facts Paul drew on notions borrowed from his Rabbinical training and Pharisaic experience, and gave the events a quite new significance. A theology of the Person of Christ (preexistence, incarnation), and of a work of redemption, through endurance of death as curse of the law, took the place of the older, simpler conceptions.
It will be very evident that, if the foregoing description is correct, Paul was an even greater religious force than Jesus, for Paul at least taught a universal Gospel of grace and love for men, while Jesus did not. Yet surely it is not difficult to see that, while necessarily there must be a contrast between Master and Apostle—between Gospel and Epistle—the features of the contrast are violently exaggerated. Gospel and Epistle are not thus rudely to be torn asunder. The Gospels, with their matchless pictures of the historical Jesus, came from the bosom of the apostolic community—from circles charged with those very ...1
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