Jesus as the problem for Paul

(Jimmy Sellers) #1

This is a question that I ask my Sunday school teacher last Sunday,

Can you cite any verse(s) in the Epistles that would address “Jesus the man or Jesus Messiah” as the bone of contention between Paul and the Jewish community or even the gentile community?

Before you howl, I know that this Jesus turned the world upside down so don’t think I have left the ranch. I just cannot think of any verse that called the person of Jesus into question? Again, from the Epistles. (OK Maybe Mars Hill Acts 17:32) I can think of many verse that challenged Paul on his understanding of what should be done with this resurrected Messiah and what should be the response of the communities. I would be very interested in the thoughts of the group.

(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Hi Jimmy, can you share with us what your teacher was saying? What was the context of your question?

(Jimmy Sellers) #3

The context being that Jews hated Jesus the man, a bias that I believe has been in the church for hundreds of years. I was simply asking for verse(s) that would corobroate the implied accusation(s). (Epistles only)

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #4

Hello @Jimmy_Sellers. Can you expound what you mean by Jews hating Jesus the man? Can you tell us more about this contention?

(SeanO) #5

@Jimmy_Sellers Are you asking if there is any evidence in the Epistles that the Jews or Gentiles cared if Jesus was man or Messiah?

Since I do not understand the question fully I cannot answer it, but here are some passages that highlight Paul’s understanding of the the relationship the Jews and Gentiles had toward the Gospel.

I think you will notice a common theme in the Epistles that the epicenter of contention was the cross. The Gentiles struggled to stop living lives of sin - to be crucified to their flesh - or they trusted in pagan philosophy rather than the “foolishness of God”. The Jews wanted to be saved by the law and their own righteousness rather than by faith through the work of Christ on the cross.

I also think in the Epistles, since Paul was talking to Churches, he generally was addressing Judaizers - false teachers infiltrating the Church - rather than the Jews who were chasing him around trying to stone him.

1 Cor 1:22-24 - Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Galatians 3:10-14 - For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Romans 6:1-4 - What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Of course Jesus’ identity as God is contentious among both.

Do any of those verses spark any thoughts?

(Jimmy Sellers) #6

As I understand the 1st century church it was made up of mostly Jewish believers. In that group there were those that believed and struggled with the freedom that belief offered and there were those who believed and could not let loose the traditions and requirements of Torah. In both cases it was not Jesus as man or Messiah that was at issue, it was the perceived requirements of the new life and this is what Paul contended with, not Jesus. Jesus was his reason and defense for this new life (not a belief as we understand belief to mean). (There was no equivalent to modern day religion.) To support my position, I don’t recall an alternative position that was posited in the Epistles for who or what Jesus was unlike the Gospels where the question was asked, who do you say that I am? The message was always Christ crucified and Christ glorified. If I just take the Epistles and leave church history aside I don’t see a Jewish polemic against Jesus. I do see Jews and Gentiles trying to make sense of this call to live a life that by all accounts is against all that they hold near and dear.

(SeanO) #7

@Jimmy_Sellers Indeed - the Epistles were directed to Churches, so we would expect to see them trying to figure out how to make sense of Jesus rather than denying His role as Savior.

The question was often “What does Jesus save us to? What does the new life look like?” And Paul was often having to rebuke those who twisted the Gospel to allow them license to sin or who made it a Gnostic salvation from the physical world or something along those lines.

Out of curiosity, what do you find informative or helpful about the assertion that there is no polemic against Jesus as Messiah in Paul’s Epistles? Wouldn’t you expect that anyone who was in a Church community would be more likely to twist rather than outright deny its central tenants?

Those who would outright deny Jesus as Messiah (especially Jews) would likely rather not darken the doors of a Church and hence not be the recipients of an Epistle. In addition, Paul would have no need to point out to his sheep that denying Jesus outright as Messiah is wrong - rather he needed to point out how they could be tricked into denying Jesus through sinful living or a misunderstanding of sin and salvation.