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Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? Paperback – April 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; First Edition edition (April 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802801242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802801241
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Oxford New Testament lecturer Wenham revisits an often debated question (his nonexhaustive bibliography exceeds 16 pages): Was Paul thoroughly aware of Jesus' life and teaching, or did he largely create Christianity himself? Most of the discussion utilizes close comparison of brief passages from the Epistles to the final written Gospels, which they predate. Wenham points out both parallels and divergences, considering how Paul's writings and teachings may have influenced the oral traditions and early written texts that coalesced into the Gospels, and vice versa. He makes a strong case that most, but not all, of Paul's beliefs conform to the received Jesus tradition. This work is accessible to persistent, knowledgeable lay readers.?Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This compendium of scholarly research on the relationship between Jesus and Paul is intended for a general audience. Wenham takes sides clearly and early against scholars (including Karen Armstrong) who see Paul primarily as the founder of Christianity, depicting him instead as a follower of Jesus. He goes to great pains to assemble evidence of Paul's familiarity with the Jesus tradition, including similarity of theological outlook and vocabulary. One effect of Wenham's thesis is reconsideration of the dating and interrelationship of gospel material; he sides with those who favor an early date for Matthew and with those who are skeptical of the traditional two-source hypothesis. Even readers who are not convinced by Wenham's argument will be impressed by the breadth of material assembled here. The book will prove particularly useful to serious students seeking an overview of the scholarly debate regarding Paul's place in early Christianity and some suggestions regarding points of entry. Steve Schroeder

Customer Reviews

He concludes the book with a very helpful summary.
C. Price
He is, as much as possible, trying to present and defend Paul as a true follower of Jesus Christ and not as the founder of Christianity.
Eliot Lugo Hernandez
If you have heard these theories and are curious, please read this book.
Michael Erisman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Timotheos Josephus on February 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
David Wenham answers the question posed in the title of his book by affirming that Paul was a follower of Jesus and not some sort of founder of a new religion. The opening chapter, entitled "Introducing the Question", was helpful in that the author was forthcoming about his methodologies and biases. No scholar is "completely un-biased", and Wenham deserves credit for sharing the path his argument will follow before blindly leading his reader down it.
A convincing argument is made that Paul was aware of far more details of Jesus' life than for which he is often credited. Wenham tries to avoid what he calls "parallelomania" which is the overzealousness of some scholars to find connections between Paul and Jesus in places where they don't actually exist. Some skeptics may find Wenham guilty of what he claims to avoid, but I believe the vast majority of his arguments are highly probable.
Wenham groups the connections between Paul and Jesus in degrees of probability. For example, the "highly probable" category includes Paul's knowledge of the Last Supper, resurrection appearances, Jesus' teaching on divorce and others. His next category is simply labelled "probable" and contains such things as Paul's awareness of the baptism of Jesus, the commissioning of Peter, and many more things. He then moves to connections which he considers to be merely "plausible", and believes Paul's awareness of the Sermon on the Mount, parables of the prodigal son and vineyard tenants, among several other items, fall into this category.
By using degrees of probability, I think Wenham safely avoids the charge of "parallelomania". He doesn't use statements such as "Paul must have known X".
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By C. Price VINE VOICE on August 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the most thorough discussion of Paul's relationship with the teachings and life of Jesus available for the layperson. Wenham has struck a masterful balance between scholarly discussion and accessibility. No one should be intimidated by this book, but they also need not fear that they are missing out on relevant issues.

A real strength of this book is the seriousness with which Wenham approaches the issues. Discovering what, if anything, Paul knew and carried on from Jesus is not a simple matter. One cannot just throw scriptures at a wall and hope that as much sticks as possible (he even includes a section on avoiding what he calls "parrallelomania").

To his credit, Wenham spends the first 30 pages + framing the issue. He candidly admits that Paul rarely refers explicitly to Jesus's teachings or ministry. He notes that the two usual explanations for this, that Paul either did not know much about Jesus or assumed that his audience knew much about Jesus, fail -- standing on their own -- to explain the situation satisfactorily. But as Wenham points out, there is an even larger issue. To what extent is Paul's message consistent with or the same as Jesus'? Given Paul's influence on Christianity and these questions, Wenham takes no offense about the question that entitled the book: Was Paul a Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?

To make his comparison, Wenham does not simply take Gospel verses and compare them to Pauline verses. Instead, he probes underneath to determine what Jesus' message, for example, regarding the Kingdom really was. Then he does the same with the Pauline letters. Only then does he make his comparison.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael Erisman on May 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a comprehensive presentation of the teachings of Paul and Jesus from the New Testament. I liked the way the various concepts were presented and analyzed. For a scholarly book, it is written in an easy to read fashion that contains enough detailed information for the theological scholar and is easily followed by the layperson. The book basically blows the doors off the theological theory that Paul was unaware of Jesus and created his own version of Christianity.
The book is outlined in such a way that many concepts which are presented by both Jesus and Paul such as the Kingdom of God, the Christian Community, and the essentials elements of who Jesus was and claimed to be, are compared, contrasted and dissected against each other. The result is that the author demonstrates that the absurd theories about Paul being unaware of Jesus life and teachings are unfounded.
It is clear after examining the evidence that Paul was presenting the message of the Gospel, and was in fact a follower of Jesus Christ and not the founder of a new Gnostic religion. If you have heard these theories and are curious, please read this book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 26, 1996
Format: Paperback
Wenham disputes the consensus of many liberal Biblical scholars that the Apostle Paul is Christianity's true founder. Some scholars insist that Paul, influence by Greek mystery religions, invented much of Christian theology, and particularly the religion's view of Jesus as Son of God.
In painstaking detail, Wenham demonstrates that Paul actually knew and drew from much of the tradition captured in the Gospels, in contrast to the liberal scholarship view.
Wenham constructs a challenge to those critics who too lightly dismiss the connections between Jesus and Paul. There are some points, though, where he is forced to admit that the connections are tenuous.
It's a good study for someone seriously interested in the subject, but too detailed for a casual reader. Anyone who has been persuaded by more radical Pauline scholarship (such as Hyam Maccoby's "Mythmaker") should give Wenham a fair chance to present another perspective
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