the lens of Jesus?
October 21, 2008
Tony Jones says something over at Emergent Village which I’ve been hearing a number of times in the past years: “I’ll continue to put Jesus first, and to preach that we should read Paul through the lens of Jesus and not Jesus through the lens of Paul“. No, hear me out, I’m not a Paulophilic, with me the danger is rather to become a Paulophobic (again with reference to Tony’s post), but I’m always wondering how people tend to do this? Doesn’t this assume some perfect picture of Jesus? Don’t we always read Jesus through the lens of Matthew, Mark, Luke (and maybe using John, depending on your approach to the Jesus-question)? Where else do we find the “Jesus-lens”?
So, at most we could say that we read Paul through the lens of the gospels, not through the lens of Jesus. Except if you say that Paul knew nothing of Jesus, has nothing to say for the historical-Jesus question (yeah, some have said this). But from what I hear listening to scholars, that would be downright irresponsible, to look back from 2000 years in the future, and throw away the oldest Christian sources (Galatians or 1 Thessalonians) in our search for Jesus.
A more honest approach would be to acknowledge that we read Jesus through the lens of Paul, or Mark, of Matthew or Luke. Or that we read Paul through the lens of Matthew of Mark or some of the others (who had to have carried knowledge of Paul when writing, and surely Paul and his fights against the Judaizers should at least somewhere have crossed their minds while writing). Or a number of other combinations might exist, but you cannot jump over your sources, find your perfect Jesus, and use this as lens for reading everything else… but that’s my two cents… would love to hear what comes out of the reclaiming Paul conference!