Simply Jesus or simply Paul?

Who is more important Paul or Jesus? Doesn’t the Church choose Paul over Jesus? Jesus taught to teach to do every commandment in the Mosaic Law “until heaven and earth are gone” (the word “therefore” in the verse which refers to v. 18) while Paul teaches “we are no longer under the Law” in his letters and was accused of this in Acts 21. [Matt. 5:19cf.18]

Hi Kyle, welcome to the forum!

Have you been reading N. T. Wright, or is your thread title just a coincidence?

Scot McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel addresses the idea that Jesus and Paul preached different “gospels” and argues they did not. The church maybe has not understood Paul so well and has made some wrong assumptions about what he meant about “the law.” One of the arguments (advanced by Wright and others who study Paul) is that the law was never about salvation, it was always about marking community membership in the people of God. After Pentecost, the mark of community membership in the people of God shifts from Torah observance to being filled with the Holy Spirit, so Torah observance needed to be reevaluated.



I used to have “a beef” with Paul for what he did to shape the Primitive Church to the nature of the Pax Romana.

But over time, I came to see that there was an extremism in the early Jewish/Christian communities. For those who challenge that view, it’s quite easy to find almost anywhere in the New Testament:

While the Essenes of the period met under the umbrella notion of “The Way” and in “Assemblies of Heaven” and “Assemblies of God” - - it was the early Church that changed the phrasing to the “Kingdom of Heaven” and the “Kingdom of God”.

Without Paul’s gift for turning the earliest congregations into multi-cultural gatherings (or gatherings open to such diversity), the theme of “kingdom” would have continued to collide with the Imperiium of Rome throughout the centuries.

The irony is that Paul might have been looking for more of a religious culture as seen in the Eastern Orthodox communities … but ended up inspiring the Roman/Latin side of the church into becoming the unbending Kingdom (al la Pappa, the Pope) that Paul could see as a phantom shadow within the early Church!

Dear Kyle,

Yes, I agree. The church chooses Paul over Jesus. For me, the major doctrines of Christianity are against the worlds of Jesus and for me illogical;

The Trinity Doctrine: (Matt 19:17) Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: Jesus is not God

The Grace Doctrine: (Matt 5:48) Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. and (Matt 5:21-26) Repay all our debts to the last farthing. It takes more than just His Grace

The Eternal Damnation Doctrine: (John 3:17) *For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. and (Luke 15:4-5) Not one will be lost All will be saved

Biblical Inerrancy Doctrine: (John 16:13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. Jesus says He continues to send teachers

This is just the tip of the iceberg of how the church has taken the words of Paul to over-rule those of Jesus. Others are used to justify alienation of women, gays and nonbelievers.

The church did not choose Paul over Jesus.

  1. The Trinity Doctrine. Let us look at the verse you referenced with a wee bit of context:

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one [God] who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matt 19:16-17)

You are using it as if the man was asking Jesus if he (Jesus) was good, and Jesus answered, more or less, no, only God is good. But the man was asking him about good deeds, and Jesus answers him that only God is good, with the implication that deeds are not truly good as measured against the goodness of God. As a consequence, you should strive to obey God’s commandments, not ask what good deed will get you into heaven. This was not the teaching moment for Jesus to declare his divinity, it would have been beside the point he was trying to make.

  1. The Grace Doctrine. Whether it is ALL grace is essentially the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, and has nothing to do with the “church chose Paul” claim. Both groups use sayings of Jesus and writings of Paul to support their position. The “all grace” side does not choose one man and the “mostly but not all grace” group choose the other.

  2. The Eternal Damnation Doctrine. Both Jesus and Paul make explicit mention to eternal damnation. You may choose to deny what they taught, but like the “all grace” point it is undeniable that this it is not a point of contention between Jesus and Paul. If you want to deny eternal damnation, you will have to deal with statements from each man whose plain reading teaches of eternal hell–not just one of the men. Here are some of those teachings from both Jesus and Paul.

  3. Biblical Inerrancy. I don’t actually see the point you are making with John 16:13, the teacher Jesus sends is the Holy Spirit. But again this is not a point of contention. Whether or not one accepts the doctrine of inerrancy, it is unarguable, given the numerous times they both quote scripture, with both of them, for example, identifying Jesus as the one promised in prophecy—and Jesus’ “not a jot or tittle” consonant with Paul’s “all scripture is God breathed”, that both had a comparable high view of scripture.

The bottom line is that if you want to claim that the church chose Paul over Jesus you have to choose doctrines not based on whether you believe them or not, but doctrines over which Jesus and Paul disagreed, and the church sided with Paul. I don’t believe you can do that.

CORRECTION: I included a passage from Jude in the link of “hell” verses. I meant to include only sayings of Jesus and writing of Paul, but I got careless.


Dear David,
Thank you for the reply. Yes, my answer was cursory and I did not lay each of the four points out in full. My observation has been that all four of these are defended with letters from Paul and not the words of Jesus. And people who deny this do exactly what you did. You took the one time that Jesus is quoted as using the term “eternal punishment” (Matt 25:46) against the 30 times He speaks of eternal life. Jesus’ overwhelming message is one of salvation.

Thank you also for bringing to light the lack of Inerrancy in Matt 19:16:17. Here is what the King James Bible says, which is not what you quoted from the NIV above:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

But this is not the only place that Jesus says He is not the Father. Luke 22:41–43 and John 20:25 - 30 He describes how He is not the Father. I am not here to ague the trinity doctrine, I just want to say that the words of Paul are used to defend it.

When it comes to inerrancy, it was Jesus who challenged the scribes and priests as to their interpretation of the OT and in NT He promises to send the spirit of truth to keep teaching. If His world will never die, it cannot survive only from the fragments we have from 2,000 years ago. Language changes, so there has to be more teachers planned to come and refresh the works of Jesus. This is what He is saying in John 16:13. And the catholic priest Johannes Greber was instructed to rewrite the New Testament with the help of the spirit of truth. I sure this will continue to happen in the millennia to come.

Of course not, but you just argued against it.

[quote=“Shawn_Murphy, post:6, topic:39887”]
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.


The rich young Ruler called Jesus, Good Master (or Rabbi). Jesus responded, Why so you call me good? Don’t you know that God Alone is Good?

The context is very important here. The context tells us the rich young Ruler was a Pharisee, which was not bad per se, but it raises a question as bout his intentions. Again Jesus asked him a simple question, Why do you call me good?.

Why does anyone call another “good?” Because they are good, right? Jesus is pointing out that if He was good, and He was, then He was like God Who alone is Good.

Jesus did not deny that He was good. Jesus claimed to be without saying it that He was the Messiah, the One Chosen by the Father to save God’s People,.so how could He not say that He was Good Look at Psalm 2 v 7, which says that the Messiah is begotten by God and so is God and Good.

Mark 10:19-22 (NIV2011)*
19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

After Jesus told hi9m to keep the commandments, the man said that he did and he was still not saved! What to do?

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Sell all you have, give the money to the poor, then come and Follow Me.!

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Following the Commandments does not bring salvation, but obeying Jesus and following Him does. It seems that Jesus and Paul taught the same thing. Jesus cannot save unless He is God.

Jesus is more important. There is no doubt about this whatsoever. But this doesn’t mean that Paul is not important.

Jesus is the example to follow. Paul is the theologian.
Jesus educates the heart. Paul informs the mind.
Jesus brought us salvation. Paul brought us the religion of Christianity.
Jesus is God. Paul is simply the first of many religious reformers.

What church would that be? Like I said, Paul is the first of MANY reformers. Jesus is the challenge which draws us forward and thus we are confronted with one challenge after another which reformers like Paul show us a way through.

Matthew 5:19 “19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

But what follows is not a literal treatment of the law and thus Jesus shows repeatedly that it is not about following a set of literal restrictions but about a transformation of the human heart. It is not about satisfying legal requirements about about what kind of person we are. So Jesus says…

Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Thus Jesus shows that there is meaning beneath the law and it is not just a bunch of specifications for the correct operation of a machine.

What Jesus shows in this way by parable and example, Paul explains more explicitly. Paul fleshes it out for the intellectual precisely because mental types do exactly what you have done – ignore what Jesus teaches the heart in order to take words out of context and make them mean just the opposite.

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I notice that many of you are still referencing the KJV reference that has Jesus responding “why callest thou me good” (or something else like that). And yet, @heddle made me notice something I hadn’t noticed before. The NRSV has it “Why do you ask me about what is good?”

Those are two very different things, and I understand that the NRSV is probably the more scholarly and accurate direct translation of words. So didn’t the KJV just get this one wrong? Or is this a case where (as I’m guessing Shawn will claim) trinitarian politics were driving translation choices even for the NRSV? Or is there genuine doubt about which way the translation ought to go, and yet the NRSV uncharacteristically didn’t even footnote the ambiguity?

Hebrew or Greek scholars?

Well, first of all what is exactly the flaw with using the “one time” Jesus speaks of eternal punishment? And you don’t seem to count the times that he uses, say, “eternal fire” which I don’t think you have to do violence to the text to equate to eternal punishment. And let’s stipulate, arguendo, that Jesus’ “overwhelming message is one of salvation”. That does not negate that he taught of hell. In fact, if I were trying to make your point, I would think it would be a better approach to concede that Jesus taught a great deal about hell, and then try to demonstrate that Paul did not. I don’t think you can, but at least it makes more numerical sense given the relative quantity of their teachings.

You are confusing the doctrine of inerrancy with some unknown (except perhaps for the KJV-only crowd) doctrine of inerrant-translations-perfect-scholarship-absolute-scribal-integrity. The differences in Matt 19:16 have no bearing on the doctrine of inerrancy as spelled out, say, in the Chicago Statement (commonly accepted by evangelicals who affirm inerrancy.) The doctrine is a claim of inerrancy in the original autographs, not in the translations. Which, given they have been lost, is more a statement of theology than practicality.

Speaking of Matt 19:16, in any exegesis I always use the Critical Text translations (esp. NIV, ESV, and NASB), since they are based on older manuscripts and also more modern scholarship. Still, I would argue that even the KJV translation does not demand that Jesus is denying his deity–it has historically been viewed as Jesus using a rhetorical approach and being pedagogical in teaching the young man that his deeds are not good enough.

I have never in my life heard anyone use Jesus’ or Paul’s words to teach that Jesus is the Father. If you are saying that people only use Paul’s words to defend the Trinity, you are mistaken. Just googling “proof of the trinity from scripture” produces a lot of hits with the usual suspects. Take a look at any of them and you’ll see plenty of references to the words of Jesus and plenty of references to the Pauline corpus. You might argue whether some of those verses actually teach the Trinity (I would), but you cannot argue that the defense of the Trinity only comes from Paul’s words.

I still am not seeing any argument that demonstrates a conflict between Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s teachings.

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I am not a fan of the KJV. But in this case the version you are quoting is stretching our credibility about the text too far. The literal word for word translation of the Greek for Luke 18:19 and Mark 10:18 respectively is the following…

Said then to him # Jesus why me call you good no one good if not alone # God.

# And Jesus said to him why me call you good no one good if not alone # God.

(the # is for the Greek word ὁ or “ho” which appears to have a more puctuation or grammatical meaning)

This is why nearly every other translation of the Bible agree with the KJV on this, Including the NRSV. So I am a little puzzled about where you got your translation.

Oh I see… yours is coming from Matthew 19:17, where there is a difference.

There the word for word Greek is…

# And he said to him why me ask you about what is good only one is # good

Ah - I think I see what’s going on here. I was looking exclusively at the Matthew 19 passage (which in both the NRSV and NASB) has the “Why do you ask me about what is good?”. But now that I look at the NRSV passage in Luke, I see it has it the other way. Which is an interesting thing to me, since those appear (to me anyway) to be two very different sentences. But I think Mr. Heddle remains correct that this is why we don’t (or shouldn’t) try to build up systems of doctrine over just one turn of words somewhere (filtered into English cultural translation no less!).

I think the wholistic approach is necessary that will entertain nothing of all this attempt to pit Paul against Jesus. Instead we look at and for the whole message as delivered by all the prophets and apostles and even mediated through much of church tradition since, fallible as that is.


Fair enough-- but it still leaves the question of which Greek manuscripts do you translate for your literal translation? The oldest-- of which there are but few, or the later but majority! It’s an unanswerable debate, I reckon. And to me, relatively unimportant, since I see only inconsequential differences between, say, the NKJV and the ESV.

They are very different sentences in Greek. The KJV translation of Matthew sounds like Luke because the Greek text it’s based on has the same wording as in Luke. Any modern translation relies on manuscripts with quite a different Greek sentence.

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“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18-19)

I would argue that everything the Law and Prophets pointed to has been accomplished in the Messiah.


So if I understand you correctly, there were different Greek manuscripts to choose from, and the KJV translators chose to be faithful to a different combination of manuscripts for Matthew and Luke respectively than the translators for the other more modern translations did.

All we need now is Robert Alter to spend his next lifetime on the New Testament so we can get one of these:

There are no major textual variants for the Lucan version (the only variation being the inclusion or not of a definite article before “God” in Luke 18:19). For Matthew, the KJV translators used a version of the so-called Textus Receptus. That was by far the most commonly available text at the time, and was what the KJV translators generally used for the NT, so I’m not sure it’s right to call this particular usage a choice.

The Textus Receptus is derived from Erasmus’s edition of the Greek NT, which was mostly based on six late manuscripts, and gave the least weight to the earliest manuscript. The TR reading in Matthew is supported pretty much exclusively by manuscripts of the “Byzantine” family, while earlier and generally more reliable families all omit it. The consensus is that a copyist inserted the wording from Mark/Luke, perhaps in an attempt to correct what looked like a contradictory reading.


Thanks for the education on that! I had never heard of the “Textus Receptus” before now … but then again, I’m not much of a “King James” fan. I already had high respect for all the scholars and translators that did their best to sort this out for us, and that respect only gets bigger. I also continue to see why one doesn’t expect just one verse or passage to function in a singular “load-bearing” sort of way for important doctrines.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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