It’s ironic, is it not, that the three guys who actually spent THREE YEARS WITH JESUS EVERYDAY as his very own right hand men, disciples of the rabbi, have been side-lined in Western Christianity as second-rate to the great Apostle Paul, a guy who never met Jesus except in ecstatic visions? It’s hilarious. The six letters written by these three immediate learners from Jesus are down-played while Paul’s thirteen are held up as the centerpiece of Christian doctrine and belief.
How can we deny it? Western Christianity, and certainly Protestant Christianity, is built lock, stock, and barrel on Pauline theology, not least because the Reformation was largely a movement built on Pauline doctrines. Every single time in my entire life that I have ever heard someone quote a passage from Peter, James or John’s letters that disagreed with something Paul said, everyone within earshot scrambles to make sure that Pater, James or John conform to what Paul said. “Well, what they really mean is…” is what they say, and what follows is a way of explaining the passage so that it agrees with what we perceive as Pauline doctrine. Not once have I EVER heard someone read something in one of Paul’s letters and make it conform to the theology in Peter, James or John. And yet, logically, who would we think knew what Jesus intended better?
Well, we say, Paul was SO WELL EDUCATED! And Peter, James and John, well, you know, dumb blue collar fishermen and such. Country bumpkins. Paul’s the real theologian. These guys are more like someone telling fireside stories.
I’m not buying it.
The Reformation is long done. We don’t need to keep chanting it’s formulas and favorite verses for the next two thousand years. Meaning: we don’t need to act like the Reformation question is the centerpiece of Christianity. Do we really think the point of the Bible is “here’s how you get to heaven”? If so, we’ve got a really, really, thick set of 16th century European lenses on for glasses.
What if we took Peter, James and John just as seriously as we take Paul? What if we took them even more seriously than we take Paul, and made his theology fold into theirs? Saw theirs as prior since they were WITH Jesus all that time? I can answer that: our theology would look a lot different.
And that’s not even to mention the more obvious question: What if we read Paul through the lens of Jesus, instead of reading Jesus (as we have for 500 years) through the lens of Paul?
Time for some theology, bro.