76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Christianities" of Paul and Jesus Defined!
Paul and Jesus, How the Apostle Transformed Christianity by James D. Tabor
In November 2012, the author of The Jesus Dynasty once again releases a book that is sure to challenge our thinking when it comes to Christian Origins. In his latest work, published by Simon and Schuster, James D. Tabor turns his academic attention to a thorough investigation of a...
Published 13 months ago by Ross K. Nichols
48 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE APOSTLE PAUL IN A VACUUM
Author James Tabor does a masterful job of bringing to light the theology of the Apostle Paul. He gives us a greater understanding of Paul in a nutshell without having to read all of his epistles and brings up many interesting points. However, I was disappointed that he failed to adequately explain the motivating forces behind Paul's visionary experiences and would have...
Published 12 months ago by S. E. Moore
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76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Christianities" of Paul and Jesus Defined!,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)Paul and Jesus, How the Apostle Transformed Christianity by James D. Tabor
In November 2012, the author of The Jesus Dynasty once again releases a book that is sure to challenge our thinking when it comes to Christian Origins. In his latest work, published by Simon and Schuster, James D. Tabor turns his academic attention to a thorough investigation of a particular way of defining and understanding Christianity. Of all the works he has published in more than thirty years as a Biblical scholar and historian of Christian origins, this may prove to be Tabor's most important contribution yet to our understanding of how and why we have come to believe the way we do. Tabor asserts and then sets out to prove that Catholics, mainstream Protestants and evangelicals have all inherited much of their Christianity, not through the teachings of Jesus but through the teachings of the Apostle Paul.
Even though this book may challenge readers, Tabor presents his convincing arguments in a way that is both respectful and sensitive. Tabor makes no excuses for Paul. For better or for worse, Tabor allows Paul to explain himself from his own words at every turn. He does this by carefully reporting facts taken from ancient sources and by examining and contrasting Christianity before and after Paul.
Tabor's work claims that Paul effectively transformed Christianity from a thoroughly Jewish sect into something that would have been altogether foreign to Jesus and his first followers. He shows that for Paul, there was no interest in "Jesus according to the flesh." Paul admittedly never met Jesus according to the flesh, but rather relates that in a series of visionary experiences or revelations, a "heavenly Christ" came to him with a message that would become his gospel. To Paul, these revelations surpassed all other views of Jesus thereby placing him in a unique position if not a superior role to convey matters of spiritual import.
Tabor works through six major points he derives from Paul's letters to clearly show how Paul transformed the way people believe and in the process caused an irreparable rift between his own views and the views of the authentic "Jewish" faith of Jesus and his first followers. Paul and his views effectively won and authentic Jewish Christianity became marginalized and silenced. Church creeds would follow suit. Literal meanings of concepts would be replaced by allegorical interpretations carefully presented by the "least of all apostles." The one who persecuted Christians at first became the champion of a new religion in the end.
Even if one disagrees with Tabor's conclusions, the work contains much of value when it comes to understanding Paul and modern Christian beliefs and sacraments. In the end the reader is allowed to make his own mind up, but the decision may prove difficult for many. One is placed in the unenviable position of choosing between the religion of Jesus and a religion about him, also known as the religion of Paul.
Dr. James Tabor is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he is professor of Christian origins and ancient Judaism. He has his B.A. in Greek from Abilene Christian University (1966), his M.A. in Religion from Pepperdine University (1971), and an M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Ancient Mediterranean Religions in the Humanities Division of the University of Chicago (1974, 1981).
Buy the book today!
I highly recommend this book!
Ross K Nichols
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best New Book on Paul and Early Christianity!,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)Dr. Tabor's new book, "Paul and Jesus", is the culmination of the author's thirty-year examination of the life of Paul, the meaning of his message, and nature of his relationship with the Jerusalem apostles and with James, the brother of Jesus. In this eminently readable and ultimately challenging investigation into these issues, Tabor refreshingly portrays Paul without the added reinterpretation provided by the later church. Basing his analysis almost exclusively on the authentic letters of Paul, Tabor re-introduces us to a man many of us might have thought we already knew. We quickly realize that the popular image of Paul has been heavily based on the Acts of the Apostles, which is little more than an "Acts of Paul", written as late as the early second century according to the author, and thus by someone who never knew Paul.
In this fascinating and revealing portrait of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Tabor makes it clear that not only did Paul never meet Jesus, he paid scant heed to the inheritors of Jesus' teaching: the apostles and brothers of Jesus. Instead, Paul based his entire "gospel" on his repeated, self-reported revelations that he claimed were of the risen Christ. As the author convincingly shows, Paul's unique message conflicted with that of Jesus' own disciples and led to open hostility and perhaps even to Paul's arrest and imprisonment in Rome.
Throughout this reevaluation of Paul, Tabor challenges us to understand that the New Testament is, with few exceptions, comprised of books that represent the Pauline teachings, not those of early Palestinian Jewish Christianity. All of them were written after Paul's letters were composed. This leads to some startling discoveries. For example, Tabor claims that it was Paul, not any of the Gospel writers, who first interpreted Jesus' Last Supper as inaugurating the routine consumption of the body and blood of Christ, terminology that Jesus, as a devout Jew, would have never used. At another point, Tabor challenges the conventional view that when Paul referred to what he "received" about Jesus' death and resurrection, he was not referring to tradition obtained from the apostles but to revelations he received from the risen Christ.
These and other intriguing new insights make the purchase of "Paul and Jesus" a must for anyone interested in the history of the New Testament and Christian origins. While the book is based on solid scholarship by one of the world's top researchers in the field, it is easily readable and highly absorbing. You may not want to put it down once you start.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biblical Heritage Center recommends Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity by James D. Tabor should be required reading for every Christian. I first met James in the late 1980s at a conference in Ft. Worth, Texas and I was impressed by the fact that he laid his cards on the table when it came to discussing the histories of Christianity and Judaism. James hasn't changed. On the second page (xvi) of the preface of Paul and Jesus you will find:
". . . the message of Paul, which created Christianity as we know it, and the message of the historical Jesus and his earliest followers, were not the same. In fact, they were sharply opposed . . ."
Anyone reading the New Testament Gospels and Paul's Epistles critically knows that Tabor is correct. So, why will Paul and Jesus challenge the beliefs of millions of Christians? One reason can be traced back to the Niagara Bible Conference that published the "Five Points of Fundamentalism" in 1895. It stated the conference's conclusion that there are five essential beliefs required for one to be a Christian. One of those essential beliefs is "the inerrancy of Scripture" (meaning the Christian Bible). This belief became a cornerstone for fundamentalism and will be the obstacle standing between millions of Christians understanding the truth of Tabor's statement above - "the message of Paul created Christianity!"
Our beliefs about the Bible affect how we understand its words. If we believe everything in our Bible is the "inerrant Scripture," then our minds are forced to try and make everything we read in it agree - even when it clear that they don't. But, if we follow Tabor's method of viewing the words of each book in their textual and historical context, we find something very different. When the Roman Church canonized the books of the New Testament they established the order in which they are now found - Gospels, Acts, Paul's Epistles, etc. -- and this affects the way they are read and understood.
"If the New Testament writings are ordered chronologically, according to the dates the various books were written, a wholly different picture emerges, with radical and far-reaching implications" (p. 68).
The far-reaching implications include how one views life after death, the purpose of Jesus, the end of time, what is required for salvation, what salvation means, just to name a few. Paul and Jesus provides a roadmap for understanding the differences between Paul and the apostles Jesus personally chose on these and other important topics. Obviously, as Tabor points out, the question of the validity of Paul's claim that he is an apostle is a primary issue.
The quest for the historical Jesus has been in the spotlight for the past century. Tabor turns the spotlight to "The Quest for the Historical Paul" in the Appendix of his book. He provides a wealth of information there. You will find it is a great resource for viewing Paul in light of the evidence that is known about him. Only by understanding Paul are we able to recognize his influence on the Gospels and what we know about the historical Jesus.
As I said at the opening of this article, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity should be required reading, but not only for every Christian. It should be read by anyone affected by Christian beliefs too. BHC highly recommends this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's another clue for you all, the Christian was Paul,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Kindle Edition)Historian and scholar James Tabor has written an excellent book that meticulously detailed the history of the self-appointed Apostle Paul. He walks the reader through the step-by-step analysis of how Paul broke with those in Jerusalem who knew Jesus led by James, the brother of Jesus and Peter. They were still observant Jews who knew Jesus to be an observant Jew who preached his message to the Jews and who came to be seen as the Jewish Messiah. Tabor shows us how Paul grew to be at odds with the Jewish Christians that led to the schism between the two groups. I remember when I took a History of Christianity class as an undergrad and I was surprised to learn many of the facts Tabor discusses in his book. I clearly remember when my professor told us that Paul never met or knew Jesus of Nazareth but rather claimed that the "risen Christ" came to him on the Road to Damascus in a vision. I grew up in a Missionary Baptist Church and they never told us about this historical evidence but rather they promulgated the orthodox faith-based story that we know not to be factual. So Tabor's work is not a surprise nor a radical departure from mainstream historical Biblical scholarship. Where he excels is in the fine detail and in the depth of his exploration of the work of Paul and how his vision of the "risen Christ" became enshrined in the books of the New Testament. The early Pauline church survived while the 12 Apostles led Jewish church was seriously damaged by the Jewish revolt (66-70 CE) in Jerusalem that led to the destruction of the city by the Romans. The Pauline churches disassociated with their Jewish roots and claimed that their Christianity was for the Gentiles and was pro-Roman. The early church fathers followed this narrative helping to change the message of what was this reform movement within Judaism by Jesus and his Jewish followers into the anti-Jewish, pro-Gentile Pauline doctrine that went by the name of Christianity but had very little to do with the human Jesus and was all about the "risen Christ" who Paul claimed appeared to him to give him special messages and revelations. This is a disturbing history because it shines the light of rational inquiry on what had for so long been accepted church doctrine based on faith and tradition. While Fundamentalists will discount and ignore the evidence-based facts of history, this book is of great use and utility for the open-minded people of faith and for those of us in the secular Freethought community who want to learn about how the early Christian Church was created and why the Pauline narrative survived to become the dogma of the Christian faith. This book is recommended reading for those who want to learn about one of the most influential figures in the history of the Western World. In order to have an intelligent dialogue about this subject we need to be educated about the factual history of the Jesus Movement and how Paul, who never knew Jesus, was the creator of Christianity. This is a fascinating and important subject for all of us interested in religious and cultural issues. I hope Tabor writes a follow-up book because I didn't want this book about Paul and his followers to end.
33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Game Changer,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)Paul and Jesus is a major, game-changing book. James Tabor is a meticulous historian who carefully and convincingly lays out the actual Jewish theology of earliest Christianity which lies shrouded in the New Testament. While it has been attempted before, this book persuasively shows with utmost lucidity how the innovative Hellenistic-Jewish teachings of Paul contrasted and ultimately collided with the more traditional Jewish teachings of the Nazarene movement led by Jesus' brother, James. Tabor's thorough yet succinct writing style brings a welcome new clarity to our understanding of the development of Christianity. While this book may disturb many Christians, Paul and Jesus lays down a challenge the church can no longer ignore, but must openly engage and ultimately accommodate if it wishes to proclaim an authentic gospel in the 21st century.
- The Rev. Jeffrey J. Bütz, S.T.M., adjunct professor of Religious Studies, Penn State University, author of The Brother of Jesus
48 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE APOSTLE PAUL IN A VACUUM,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)Author James Tabor does a masterful job of bringing to light the theology of the Apostle Paul. He gives us a greater understanding of Paul in a nutshell without having to read all of his epistles and brings up many interesting points. However, I was disappointed that he failed to adequately explain the motivating forces behind Paul's visionary experiences and would have us believe that Paul operated in a vacuum.
This book suggests that Paul singlehandedly concocted his own version of the Christian faith which was out of sync with, and in some cases diametrically opposed to an earlier and supposedly hidden faith of Jesus and his earliest followers. Tabor hears the echo of Paul throughout most of the New Testament and claims that the gospels are essentially Pauline writings.
While I agree that the Book of Acts was written by someone who was part of Paul's circle and was more familiar with Paul than with James, I don't believe it deliberately marginalized James or distorted Paul's relationship with the Pillar Apostles or the mother church in Jerusalem.
Here are some points which I found interesting and worthwhile in this book:
One of the greatest insights is that Paul is the key to understanding the Jewish and Jewish Christian concept of resurrection which is neither a completely disembodied state espoused by Greek philosophy nor the resuscitation of a corpse. I would add that Paul's concept of resurrection is in harmony with Jesus own view of the resurrected state in (Matthew 22:30). To Paul, it was irrelevant wether Jesus' tomb was empty or wether he was buried some place.
Tabor explains how Romans chapter 8 is the key to understanding Paul's theology. The mystery that Paul mentions in his epistles is fully divulged in this chapter.
Another key to understanding Paul is his conviction that his generation would live to see the end of the age and the return of Christ. Paul felt his mission to the gentiles was a prophetic calling according to scripture, especially Isaiah 49 and felt that he was completing the work of Christ with Christ working through him. Paul's earliest epistle, 1 Thessalonians, is intensely apocalyptic. To Paul, there was no time left to start a family or a business which explains why he discouraged marriage. I would add that this is no different than what Jesus and his disciples believed and the radical end-time teachings of Jesus, especially Matthew 19, reflect much of Paul's apocalyptic thinking. Paul's Galilean roots may have influenced his apocalyptic thinking. This is an interesting point that most people aren't aware of.
Paul's apocalyptic ideas were unique in that he believed he and his converts were already living in a resurrected state guided by the Spirit, albeit trapped in a mortal body and in the world of "flesh", and therefore had no need of a written law. I would add that this idea can be found in (Jeremiah 31:33-34) which prophesies a day when the law would be placed in the inward part and written in the heart and nobody would need to be taught the law. To Paul, that day had already arrived.
I agree with Tabor's criticism of Paul in one respect. Asking your converts to behave as if the world were passing away while still having to deal with the realities of the present world is impractical and led to constant confusion and conflict among Paul's followers who didn't have his spiritual orientation. The Jewish Christians were more practical in their approach to living in the end times. They believed that as long as they lived in mortal bodies they still needed the restraint of the law. Ironically, their approach would have been more conducive to establishing Christianity as a more unified institution. The Christian faith becoming an institution is something Paul never envisioned. Maybe this is why institutional Christiantity became so fragmented.
I strongly disagree with the author on three major points:
I. Paul achieved a "literary victory" in that Pauline oriented writings dominate the New Testament. Mark was heavily influenced by Paul and the gospels are essentially Pauline documents.
Gary Wills wrote in WHAT PAUL MEANT that the gospels were committed to writing long before Paul's letters were widely circulated.
Richard Bauckham elaborates even further in JESUS AND THE EYEWITNESSES that the oral traditions recorded in the gospels predate Paul's epistles and their transmision was closely monitored and controlled by the surviving eyewitnesses to Jesus who held positions of authority in their respective communities. The gospels were committed to writing while at least some of these eyewitnesses were still alive who would have controlled what was being recorded and disseminated. Throughout his book Bauckham explains how the transmission of oral traditions in the ancient world was not done in a haphazard manner.
II. Tabor suggests that an irreparable breach developed between Paul and the other apostles due to his alleged attempts to encourage Jewish converts to abandon the Torah. He goes on to say that Jewish Christian groups, especially the Ebionites, rejected Paul as a heretic and an apostate from the law.
Pamela Eisenbaum wrote in PAUL WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN that Paul's epistles were written exclusively for a gentile audience. To Paul, the law was a curse to gentiles because they lived outside the covenant and had no means to atone for their sins. This problem was solved by Jesus' sacrificial atonement on their behalf and the requirement for them to convert to Judaism was a denial of the grace they received from Calvary. She also pointed out that (Romans 2:13) clearly indicates that Paul did not teach a lawless gospel.
Tabor claims that Paul's rebuke of Peter for not eating with gentiles and compelling tham to live like Jews can be interpreted as Paul rebuking Peter for allowing gentile believers to convert to Judaism which Paul absolutely forbade. Mark Nanos in THE MYSTERY OF ROMANS has a better explanation. To Paul, refusing to eat with gentile believers implied that they had a lesser status in the Jesus movement which further implied that the sacrifice which Jesus made on their behalf and the grace which was bestowed upon them was somehow flawed and not fully acceptable to God. This is why Paul insisted that gentile believers enter the Kingdom of God as gentiles.
In (Galatians 2:2, 6-10) Paul laid his gospel out before the Pillar Apostles for their approval lest his preaching was in vain. They obviously accepted it because they added nothing to it and gave him their approval to preach it to the gentiles while he in turn agreed to send them tithes ("remember the poor"). The fact that Paul's travelling companions were chosen by the Pillar Apostles suggests that he wasn't preaching anything which was out of line with what they were preaching.
In (Romans 15:25-27) Paul encouraged his gentiles to make a contribution to the "Saints" in Jerusalem because they were spiritually indebted to them. In verse 31 he hopes that his offering will be acceptable to them. This hardly reflects any enmity between Paul and the mother church in Jerusalem.
In (1Thessalonians 2:14), Paul commends his gentile audience for immitating the churches in Judea who suffered and endured the same kind of persecutions.
Tabor claims that Paul's harsh rebuke of people trying to derail his ministry in (2Corinthians 11:13-15) refers to the Pillar Apostles themselves. Based upon the aforementioned verses, I couldn't disagree more. In (Acts 15:24) the Pillar Apostles sent letters to the gentile congregations in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia saying that they heard rumors of certain men who troubled them by compelling them to be circumcised and keep the law..."to whom we gave no such commandment". Paul himself wrote in (Galatians 2:3-4) that the Pillar Apostles did not compel Titus to be circumcised and that false brethren were brought in without the knowledge of the Pillar Apostles who compelled gentile converts to fully convert to Judaism. It is obvious that there were Jewish Christians acting independently of the Pillar Apostles who tried to derail Paul's ministry.
In regard to later Jewish Christians, especially the Ebionites, rejecting Paul, Ray Pritz demonstrates in NAZARENE JEWISH CHRISTIANITY that the Nazarenes were the true heirs of the Jerusalem Church who kept the law, worshipped in synagogues, and accepted Paul as an apostle. The Ebionites were a later and more heterodox Jewish Christian group.
Marcel Simon in SAINT STEPHEN AND THE HELLENISTS IN THE EARLY CHURCH makes a strong case for the Ebionites being the heirs of the Hellenist faction who were persecuted and driven out of Jerusalem by Saul/Paul prior to his conversion. This may explain their antipathy toward Paul. Robert E. Van Voorst in THE ASCENTS OF JAMES claims that the Psudo-Clementine writings (believed by some scholars to have Ebionite origins) originated from a group who were the spiritual heirs of the Hellenist faction.
III. Tabor claims that Paul's version of Christianity was opposed to the beliefs of Jesus, James, and the other apostles and that the foundations of Christianity rest in a singular way upon the heavenly visions and apparitions of the Apostle Paul. The gospel accounts of the resurrection and the subsequent appearances of Jesus don't make sense unless we see Paul as the motivating factor behind them. He further writes, "to speculate as to where Paul derived the ideas he claimed were given to him by revelation is to enter into his personal psychology".
To believe all of this, we would have to believe that Paul operated in a vacuum.
Tabor claims that Paul sought out his own theophany similar to Moses and Elijah while he was in Arabia but doesn't tell us why Paul encountered the risen Jesus instead of Yahweh.
Alan Segal wrote in PAUL THE CONVERT that Paul's revelation of the risen Christ has parallels in what was later known as Merkabah mysticism. The idea of a heavenly mediator can be found in the Book of Daniel, Enoch, and the Qumran writings and was referred to as The Son of Man, Metatron, and Melchizedek. According to Segal, those who were in the faith before Paul enabled him to interpret his revelations, which led to his conversion.
Larry Hurtado in LORD JESUS CHRIST and HOW ON EARTH DID JESUS BECOME GOD? makes a convincing argument that the exaltation of Jesus ro a heavenly status was an almost immediate phenomenon prior to Paul's conversion and that Paul was converted to the very same idea which he had so zealously tried to stamp out.
I think that Hurtado made an outstanding point. Paul's visionary experiences didn't erupt out of a vacuum but were spawned by the very same ideas which he had found so offensive and which he had tried to silence prior to his conversion. The idea of Jesus being exalted to heaven and seated at the right hand of God goes back to Jesus himself in (Mark 14:62). This is what Saul/Paul heard Stephen testify to before he witnessed Stephen's execution by stoning (Acts 7:55-56).
Josephus tells us that james was executed by stoning, a punishment for blasphemy, but doesn't tell us what blasphemous thing James said or did to merit such an execution. Hegesippus provided that answer. Hegesippus may have written in the second century but he was a Palestinian Jewish convert and was Eusebius' primary source of information regarding the early church in Jerusalem. As such, he would have been privy to the traditions about James which were preserved by that community. According to Hegesippus, James was executed for testifying that his brother, Jesus, was "sitting in heaven at the right hand of Great Power, and that He will come on the clouds of heaven".
This vision is elaborated in great detail in the fifth chapter of Revelation whereby the heavenly host bows down to the Lamb (the risen Christ) who is exalted and enthroned in heaven.
(PLEASE DON'T TELL ME HEGESIPPUS AND REVELATION WERE ALSO INFLUENCED BY PAUL!!!)
Alan Segal wrote in THE TWO POWERS IN HEAVEN that "the Christian community, earlier than 70 C.E., identified Jesus with the figure of the "son of man" in the dream vision at Daniel 7:9f. which they said the Jewish community regarded as blasphemy", and that " 'Two powers' seems to be one of the basic issues over which Judaism and Christianity separated".
Paul may have hastened the split between Judaism and Christianity, but he wasn't the initial cause of it.
Finally, in (1Corinthians 15) Paul reveals the core doctrines of the Christian faith prior to his own conversion and which were being preached by the other apostles who were operating independently of him. There is no indication here that he was referring to his own private visions. In addition, he lists the people who witnessed the risen Christ before he did to include Peter (Cephas) and James. He doesn't indicate that their vision was any different than what he experienced.
In verse 1 he talks about the gospel "which also ye have received" indicating that his readers received it prior to him preaching it.
In verse 3 he claimed it was the gospel he had received. He makes no mention of receiving it in a private vision from the Lord.
In verse 11 he says, "wether it were I or they, so we preach". Somebody besides Paul is preaching the same thing.
In verse 14 he says "then our preaching is in vain". Paul is obviously not the only one preaching this gospel.
I believe that the points that Paul has in common with the gospels point to traditions which predate his conversion and which predate the writing of the gospels which both Paul and other evangelists had independent access to.
Tabor believes that Paul invented the idea of a mystical union with the Spirit of Christ which he referred to as being "in Christ". However, this idea is also espoused in the Gospel of John, especially (John 15:1-7) which uses the imagery of branches grafted into a vine. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul had any influence over the Johannine community which, according to the early church father, Papias, was led by an apostle or a prominent elder named John who was an actual eyewitness follower of Jesus.
When James Tabor reads the gospels, he hears the echo of Paul. When I read the New Testament, including the epistles of Paul, I hear the echo of Jesus and his earliest followers.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for both the bewildered and the expert.,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)As one who spent many years working in the trenches of the local churches, I was often hard pressed to reconcile obvious anomalies I found time and again while reading the Gospels and the radically different message found in Paul's letters compared with the simple earthly teachings of Jesus. Seminary did not help much since such issues were rarely discussed and what we derived from scripture were phrases and concepts designed more for sermon preparation than for finding historical truth.
That was over 40 years ago, and as a retired pastor and teacher I have had the luxury to spend some time bringing myself up to date with the scholarly issues of textual and historical critical study of our sacred documents, and, as with the Apostle Paul, after reading Dr. Tabor's book, "Paul and Jesus," I received a "revelation" of insight regarding what really happened when the holy documents were created. I am not shocked but comforted by this, knowing that humans, with human emotions, living in volatile human communities actually wrote scripture, not for the purpose of writing scripture, but as a part of living their faith and expressing their passion.
In my recent studies I have read dozens of book dealing with this issue of how our Bible was created (both old and new testaments). Some of the authors I encountered were critical, some angry, some biased, some verbose and opaque, and others simply incompetent.
Dr. James Tabor does not fall into any of these categories. His new book, "Paul and Jesus," stands out as a deeply researched historical analysis of Paul's great influence on the formation of Christianity and shows Paul's influence even on contemporary Christian belief in its many forms. His book is clearly written, both for the scholar and for the untrained casual reader. It is well organized and he communicates directly without rambling or useless repetition.
Most importantly, Dr. Tabor does not inject his personal faith bias into the picture of Paul he presents. He goes back to the sources, Paul's letters, and allows Paul to speak for himself. Of primary importance is what Paul says, not what others say about Paul, and Dr. Tabor then traces Paul's influence on what is written in the Gospels, distinguishing between the concepts of Paul and those of Jesus and of the early Jewish followers of Jesus.
Of particular interest to me is Paul's strong distinction between Jesus, who spoke physically with his disciples, and the cosmic Christ who spoke to Paul directly in a series of visionary conversations (let us remember that Paul wrote his letters many decades before the Gospels were produced and never met Jesus).
Dr. Tabor then goes into much detail regarding what Paul saw as the creation of a Cosmic Family of believers in a heavenly Kingdom of God, and helps us understand the nature of Holy Communion and the concept of the Resurrection of the dead and many other concepts and church practices we take for granted but do not always understand.
In my opinion, this is not a book just to decorate a shelf, but one to study very seriously, for it will transform the positive influences that Paul contributed to the development of the Christian church during a time of turmoil in the 1st century AD, and also applicable especially in our time as we face much religious turmoil and misunderstanding.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paul formed Christianity,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)I found the writing to support my long held belief that it was Paul, and not Christ, who really formed Christianity as we know it today.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)One the most scholarly and yet easy to understand books on Christianity I have ever read. It will change your entire way of thinking about one the most important religions of our world.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Insights into the Paul of History,
This review is from: Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Hardcover)This superb, well written book carefully shows just how different Paul's religion was from that of Jesus and his first followers. Paul, of course, never met the Jesus of history and his unique theology was built upon an on-going mystical relationship with the Christ figure who, he said, spoke in and through him. In accordance with what Christ conveyed to him, Paul abandoned Judaism and embraced a universal perspective. He saw in Christ's death the makings of a new humanity. As Tabor writes, "At the core of the mystery announcement that Paul reveals is God's secret plan to bring to birth a new heavenly family of his own off-spring." That's a major contribution to our understanding of Paul's message.
Those seriously interested in understanding how Christianity developed will find the chapters on Resurrection, the Cosmic Family and the Torah of Christ particularly fascinating. Resurrection, for instance, has been much misunderstood. It isn't a matter of physical resuscitation, not a coming back to life of this body and certainly not immortality of the soul. As Paul sees it, resurrection is nothing less than a whole new creation, a new embodiment, a creative act by God who restores life to a reconstituted person after death.
Don't miss the Appendix -- the Quest for the Historical Paul -- which contrasts the Paul of his own letters with the historical revisionism of the much later Book of Acts. We now have a number of quests on our hands ... the long-standing one, for the historical Jesus, and now for the historical Paul and his contemporaries, the James and Peter of history.
A fascinating book, packed with illuminating insights. Highly recommended.
Barrie Wilson, PhD., Professor, Humanities and Religious Studies, Toronto, author How Jesus Became Christian.
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Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity by James D. Tabor (Hardcover - November 13, 2012)