Gregory Jenks has posted a new article on academia.edu, What did Paul know about Jesus? Jenks is a senior lecturer of theology at Charles Sturt University. Among other things he is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and has a blog with the byline revisioning faith . . . shaping holy lives. I met Gregory Jenks in Toowoomba some years ago now when John Shelby Spong dropped in for a visit at his Anglican parish. He’s a nice bloke so I hope I don’t do any injustice to his article.
So first up let me give you the message Jenks wants to leave with sympathetic readers. He begins with this question for believers:
Does the historical Paul provide any help for contemporary people wondering to what extent information about the pre-Easter Jesus is relevant to the project of discipleship and faith?
After showing how little Paul addressed “Jesus traditions” he closes with the following answer that amplifies the message of his blog’s byline:
Paul appears to have exercised considerable flexibility and creative license in using whatever Jesus traditions may have been known to him and his readers. Christians today can claim that same freedom with respect to the Jesus tradition and the Pauline legacy.
Paul demonstrated that the priority always lies with direct life experience—interpreted within the context of one’s faith community and in the light of its tradition. Those who wish to honor the sage of Galilee might do it best by moving beyond veneration to the more challenging project of embracing life with openness and trust here and now.
I think I’ve been fair in presenting what Jenks sees as the importance of his article. I’ve no problem with his question or answer and respect his efforts in working towards a more tolerant and understanding society with that kind of message.
But what about the question of historicity and origins?
I was fearing that Jenks’ article would be yet one more “reading Paul through the Gospels” exercise but there was no need. Jenks is smarter than that. read more