Did Saint Paul Get Jesus Right? The Gospel According to Paul

Wenham, David
Lion Hudson (2010)
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In their different ways, fiction writers like Dan Brown and Philip Pullman and 'intellectual' atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have forced Christian apologists to come out fighting.

One of the key points of attack by atheists is that our Christianity has just about nothing to do with Jesus but was manufactured by Saint Paul. David Wenham, who has written extensively on the connection between Jesus and Paul has now encapsulated his arguments in a useful, short book.

What is impressive about Wenham is that his foundational propositions are based on evidence both from our Christian New Testament and early church traditions and on non Christian writers such as Tacitus, Josephus and Suetonius.

One of the key atheist techniques, he says, is to pretend to knowledge they do not have to prove that the NT is not historical. So, for instance, he easily shows that the New Testament is as much history as contemporary works but, unlike ancient secular historians we take on trust, there are a far greater number of NT manuscripts dating much further back, e.g. the oldest of the 5,000 New Testament manuscripts before 400 AD is a fragment of John from c125 AD whereas the oldest of 110 surviving ancient copies of Tacitus dates from the 10th Century AD.

Wenham shows from critical passages in Paul's letters that he understood the core of contemporary Christian teaching and at no time departed from its essence, although he changed its letter but not its spirit to suit his different audience from that which Jesus addressed. Above all, he points out, Paul was writing about matters that came up to a post Resurrection audience whereas a pre Resurrection Jesus speaking to his fellow Jews was in charge of his own teaching agenda but possessed no knowledge of how his mission would turn out.

Wenham also shows convincingly that Paul was a widely mistrusted outsider who never became an elder in Jerusalem from which the Church was led until 70 AD after Paul's death. The "least of the Apostles" only involved himself in one major theological controversy and that was over the status of Gentiles in the new Church.

For those interested in the centuries old argument about Jesus and Paul this is a useful summary, clearly written, with no jargon.