Speculate on the author’s intent with his statements regarding Paul: "…the focus on Paul’s thought is less on the historical Jesus and more on the meaning of the cosmic Christ…Copied...

Speculate on the author’s intent with his statements regarding Paul:

"…the focus on Paul’s thought is less on the historical Jesus and more on the meaning of the cosmic Christ…Copied repeatedly, circulated, and read publically, these letters (Paul’s letters) have formed the basis for all later Christian belief…"

What are your thoughts on Pauline theology, particularly when the person of Jesus is known through the synoptic gospels?

Asked on by etheridge35

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This is a fantastic question. Since you are dealing with a view of Paul, it is important to give a bit of scholarly context. 

Some scholars believe that Paul distorted the picture of Jesus, which emerges in the gospels. Based on this thought, Jesus did not establish Christianity; Paul did. Or we can say, Paul's understanding of Christ formed the basis of Christianity. According to your prompt, it appears that the scholar in view is referring to Paul's letter to the Colossians, where the idea of the cosmic Christ appears.  Here is a brief quote to give you the language and theology of Colossians:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Based on these words, we have to decide whether Paul is diverging from the gospels and creating something new or staying true to the historical Jesus and working out the implications.  Scholars are divided. 

In my opinion, Paul is not creating something new, even if he uses new language. The gospels lay the foundation of an understanding of the historical Jesus and the letters of Paul flesh this out in various ways. So, Paul might not be saying the same things (why should he?), but he is bringing the gospel message to it logical end. Let me give an example. 

To say the Jesus is the cosmic Christ is compatible with the gospels.  For example, it is clear in the gospels that Jesus is lord over all. Matthew 28:18 states:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."

Since all authority has been given to Jesus, there is a clear cosmic element. Therefore, in conclusion, there is good evidence that Paul's theology is compatible with the presentation of Jesus in the gospels. 

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