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Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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*Starred Review* There have been a number of books written about Paul and his relationship to the apostles; to James, the brother of Jesus; and to the early Christian community in Jerusalem. But Tabor, a professor of religion, does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul’s unique view of Jesus and how he originated a gospel that had almost nothing to do with the life of Jesus, nor the messianic message as it was understood by Jesus’ first followers. Tabor contends that Paul’s letters—Corinthians and Romans, especially—are the oldest biblical documents we have dating to Jesus’ time; the Gospels and even the Acts of the Apostles came later. Within this time line, it is possible to trace Paul’s thinking and to come to an understanding of both Paul’s gospel and the schism that developed between Paul and Jesus’ apostles. Tabor does very little speculating, keeping his focus on the texts and placing them within the context of first-century Judaism and early Christianity. The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. Tabor writes in the preface that he has spent much of his adult life studying early Christianity in general and Paul in particular. The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history’s greatest mysteries. --Ilene Cooper
"Tabor does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul's unique view of Jesus. . . . The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. . . . The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history's great mysteries." (Booklist (starred review))
"A fresh, imaginative and insightful treatment of the original years of the Christian faith. It is not as we have been taught through the centuries. It is infinitely more complex and infinitely more exciting. James Tabor makes this clear.” (John Shelby Spong, author of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World)
“This superb, well written book carefully shows just how different Paul’s religion was from that of Jesus and his first followers. . . .A fascinating book, packed with illuminating insights. Highly recommended.” (Barrie Wilson, Ph.D., Professor, Humanities and Religious Studies, York University, and author of How Jesus Became Christian)
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Historically, it seems to me that the more people became interested and converted, the more a hierarchy developed, and the more distorted Jesus' actual teachings became in application because of adapting them to different and evolving cultures. It's much easier to make ideas conform to black and white standards than to prayerfully consider the thing nearest right under the circumstances.
Professor Tabor immediately posits his thesis on Paul; that he is the apostle who had a “DECISIVE-BREAK” with the Judaic-Christian movement in Jerusalem. And he also correctly states that Paul is the “SECOND-FOUNDER” of Christianity; not the first; that was “James-the-Just”.
He dates the Gospels “late” and demands that priority be given to Paul’s thirteen early and genuine letters. And he warns that any attempt by the gospel writers to harmonize Paul with Jerusalem is a falsehood; a late embellishment.
When it comes to the “Resurrection”; he again prioritizes Paul’s letters; and makes a strong case for doing so.
The concept of “MUSTERION” becomes extremely important for understanding Paul. Professor Tabor tells us that Paul claimed to have received the deeper-Musterion of the Gospel “directly-from-Christ”; during his three-year retreat into Arabia; for Prayer, Fasting, and Meditation. It was a great pleasure reading a scholar like Tabor reinforcing the “Arabia-years”; something I’ve always believed myself; and hoped to see supported by Christian scholarship.
Along with Paul’s decisive-break; also comes the transformation of Eschatology from “Earth-to-Heaven”; as Christ becomes lord over Sheol also.
He concretizes Paul’s “high-Christology” in the passage: PHIL. 2:6-11. A passage we all recognize as the “Doctrine-of-Kenosis”. Yes Tabor gets this right as well. That is exactly where Paul’s Christology is precisely situated.
Of course “IN-CHRIST” becomes the precise term that creates Paul’s sharp distancing from the Jerusalem-Christian-Movement. We do not only “follow-the-message”; we are “delivered-in-the-personhood” of Christ.
There is also an excellent discussion of the “already-and-not-yet” of PAROUSIA in pages 158-188 that are extremely valuable.
Professor Tabor pulls his thesis together full-circle in pages 188-223; which really delivers his dramatic conclusions about APOSTOLIC-SPLIT. He does this by articulating the “3” significant cracks of: Antioch-incident; Paul/Barnabas split; & delegations from James. Beautiful argument here indeed.
All I can do is PRAISE this masterful “Better” perspective on Paul. Get a copy and “enjoy”. Thank you professor Tabor for a powerful scholarly work!!!
I cannot recommend this book too highly. It does little more than examine what is in the text, the authentic letters of Paul, which are the most authentic and honest documents in the New Testament. And, as Tabor says, he makes what is familiar appear quite strange. If only we ask the right questions about what Paul is up to, what is really going on in his letters, a remarkable story emerges. And I don't know any scholar who does this better than Tabor.
This book also builds on important scholarly research and reflection on the critical figure of James, the brother of Jesus. There is much evidence that James was the real brother of Jesus, that he assumed leadership of the community after Jesus' death, and that he is the source if not the author of the shamefully neglected Letter of James. James is the nemesis of Paul, as Paul himself makes all too clear in the Letter to the Galatians. James preached none of the hellenistic divinizing doctrines about Jesus that Paul preached.
Paul is the one and only founder of Christianity, as we know it.