Ed: So, if the resurrection story itself is of such great importance, how do we keep from reinterpreting Jesus without the text? If the Bible is authoritative, we should know what Jesus thinks about these other things based on what’s in the Epistles, right?
Andy: Well, again, I think we almost have to go author by author as we think about the relationship of those New Testament authors to Jesus. Obviously, the Apostle Paul got what he knew about Jesus historically from Peter and John; aside from what was revealed to him in this mysterious time when he was off by himself.
Of course, other people would say that the reason that Paul never mentions much about the narratives of Jesus is because he didn’t know about them, which I completely reject. Obviously, what he was writing in the Epistles was circumstantial as it related to what was going on in local churches.
In my book, I spent a great deal of time arguing for the fact that the Apostle Paul is basically taking Jesus’ one commandment and saying, “Hey, gentiles. This is what it looks like in marriage. This is what it looks like in relationships. In all of your relationships, take your cue from Christ Jesus. Submit to one another as unto the Lord.”
I think the Apostle Paul is problem-solving in the church and applying the new command that Jesus gave to specific cultural contexts. Paul’s language “in Christ” is a reference to being in and a part of the new covenant, and all of that is essentially an expression of or an extension of what Jesus launched.
In first and second Peter, it’s a little bit different, because if we believe Peter actually wrote or dictated those documents, he’s an eye witness who is problem solving in the church having experienced extraordinary pain and suffering. James is an extraordinary story because he doesn’t show up until after the resurrection. James considers Jesus his Lord; that tells you a lot. So I think, yes. All of this goes together.
But, I like to approach it, in terms of how I preach and teach, somewhat biographically or historically because, to your point, these aren’t words just floating intangibly in outer space that are somehow representing God. They are tied to historical events, but they’re more than historical events.
Ed: So is what, for example, James writes equally inspired by God and of equal authority to what Jesus says in the Gospels?
Andy: Well, I’ll answer that on two levels. If I’m talking to a non-Christian for whom inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy are non-starters, I approach it differently. As it relates to James, I always begin by discussing James as the brother of Jesus who concluded by the end of his life that his brother was his Lord and was martyred for those beliefs.
If I’m talking in theological circles or I’m talking to you and you’re asking me this question, my approach would look different. My immediate answer then, is: yes, absolutely. I believe that James’ words are spirit-inspired and authoritative for the church, not just because he was related to Jesus, but because of the source of these extraordinary insights and words.
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Source: Christianity Today