Friday, December 11, 2009

Read Paul Through Jesus; First Jesus, Then Paul

When I began my seminary studies the very first course we had to take, as a requirement, was on the book of Romans. I do not remember there being a required class on any one of the four Gospels. We had, I think, a course on New Testament studies. Probably there were some elective courses on the Gospels, either all or one or the synoptics or John. Now I would not trade my seminary experience for anything. It was wonderful and deep with amazing professors, some of whom became friends. Yet I think it mirrored the typical evangelical seminary at the time with its emphasis on Paul before Jesus.

Now, I can see that the order of hermeneutical priority is: Jesus first, then Paul. First spend a lot of years marinating in Jesus and the Gospels. Then, turn to Paul. Jesus preceded Paul. Chronologically what Jesus did came before Paul's conversion and subsequent Jesus-understanding. Paul fills out our understanding of Jesus, and not vice versa. Read Paul through Jesus, not Jesus through Paul. To read Jesus through Paul is the evangelical equivalent of a Roman Catholic methodology that asks its adherents to not read the Bible, but understand the Christian Scriptures through the lens of the church fathers.

At my church we began preaching chronologically through the Gospels in September 2005. Now, four years later, we are in John 15 (vv. 9-13 this Sunday morning). Personally, I have read and re-read through Matthew-Mark-Luke-John many times in these four years. One result is that, when I now read Paul, I am looking at a lot of things more clearly. For me, Paul's writings ave opened up in new ways for me as a result of my ongoing immersion in Jesus and Jesus-studies.

An idea: in 2010 read and re-read, slowly and meditatively, the four Gospels. Get familiar with Jesus.

Want to study the four Gospels? See my post here for some ideas.

Want to read through the entire New Testament chronologically? Get this Bible - The Books of the Bible - for under $20 here. Especially nice about this Bible is that there are no chapters or verses - Yeah!!!

See the endorsements for The Books of the Bible here and be inspired.