One of the criticisms of Christianity is that it is Apostle Paul’s version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For the discerning reader of the Bible, however, it is clear there is agreement between the writings of Apostles Paul, Peter, James, and John. Granted Paul’s Epistles already mostly had been penned prior to writings of other Apostles. Note, however, that of all of the Apostles, only Paul was an intellectual who understood importance of documentation of knowledge for posterity. Once Paul began to write, other Apostles recognized importance of documentation of life and teachings of Jesus Christ (the Gospels), and their understanding of what it means to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Epistles by Apostles John, Peter, James).
Regardless of agreement between all of the Apostles as to essence of Christian beliefs, some of Paul’s words can be construed to be evidence he was pushing his own version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the supposedly damning statements is found in 2Timothy 3:10 which states (words in brackets mine):
You (Timothy), however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance.
We see here Paul talking my, my, my, supposedly raising a flag, which is, “is this Paul’s gospel, or is he teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Consider for instance the following hypothetical rendition of the words in 2Timothy 3:10, namely:
You (Timothy), however, know all I have communicated to you about the teachings of Jesus Christ, the life of Jesus Christ, the purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance of Jesus Christ.
Well then, compare the two renditions. One emphasizes Jesus Christ, supposedly ensures Paul is communicating Jesus Christ. The other, emphasizes Paul’s interpretation of teachings of Jesus Christ, the life of Jesus Christ, the purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance of Jesus Christ. One supposedly gives glory to Jesus Christ, the other to Paul who himself is author of the words.
So is Paul here not self aggrandizing? Is Paul here not trying to take credit for gospel of Jesus Christ?
Well then, let us consider this question, which is, “Which is considered a better student — a student who internalizes knowledge for arrival at personal understanding, or a student who recites what was taught by his or her teacher?”
Clearly, and this of course is obvious, a student who rightly or correctly internalizes knowledge possesses an experiential quality in respect of taught knowledge, an experiential quality unattainable to a student who merely memorizes same knowledge. The key here of course is ‘right’ or ‘correct’ internalization for personal understanding and experience. How does the student ensure right internalization? In course of discussions with his or her teacher and/or other students.
So then why the Gospels in addition to Paul’s Epistles?
Paul wrote experientially about his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s fellow apostles or believers demonstrated Paul’s “my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance” exemplify “teachings of Jesus Christ, the life of Jesus Christ, the purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance of Jesus Christ.”
The Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — provide credible evidence from those who lived with, talked with, listened to, touched Jesus Christ that teachings and way of life of Apostle Paul matched up to or reflected teachings of Jesus Christ. Authors of the Gospels abstained from focus on their own personal interpretations because two personal interpretations are unable to confirm original teachings. If the Gospels were to validate Paul’s writings, they had to attempt to convey Jesus’ life and teachings, as opposed to personal interpretations of Jesus’ life and teachings. In so far as interpretations of Jesus’ parables were concerned for instance, only Jesus’ explanations are proferred. We find then that each of four gospels provides some unique perspective on life and teachings of Jesus Christ not available from the other three.
The only Gospel that incorporates some personal interpretation? The Gospel According to John. But when the Apostle John refers to the ‘Word of God who became flesh’, he states that which is validated by prior writings in the Old Testament of Christian Scriptures. If Jesus is ‘Father of Eternity’ and ‘Mighty God’ (Isaiah 9:6, YLT), He must be God and have coexisted with the Father from eternity. If in truth the Word became flesh, He had to come as a Child, who becomes a Son given to us (Isaiah 9:6).
Without the Gospels, we really would wonder whether Paul just was teaching his own version of Jesus Christ, or an authentic personalized revelation of Jesus Christ.
In the Epistles, Paul provides us with deep insights into how to be Christians, how to live as Christians, insights into deep spiritual realities in need of activation if we are to become all Jesus Christ desires we be to the glory of His holy name. In our access to the Gospels alongside Paul’s Epistles, we have confidence that Paul’s in depth analyses of the gospel is elaboration of teachings, and way of life of Jesus Christ. We have confidence there is nothing taught in the Epistles that is not backed up by teachings and way of life of Jesus Christ. In addition to the Gospels, Apostles Peter, James, and John provide additional insights in context of personal interpretations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We end up then with a beautiful mosaic consisting of objective evidence and personal interpretations for guidance of our understanding of what exactly it means to repose faith in the name of Jesus Christ.
How exactly are we to repose confidence in objectivity of rendition of Jesus’ life and teachings in the Gospels?
Well, would you rather be crucified upside down, or be free to live your life if all you had to do was confess whatever it was you initially validated to be true in reality is false? Since teaching of Jesus’ resurrection was not a criminal offense, confessing to a lie could not have brought any recriminations other than characterization as liars. But would rational men who changed the world choose to die rather than recant a lie? Perhaps more damning, who goes around doing good to others in a self sacrificial, non-self enriching manner, then chooses to die all on the basis of a lie?
God, Father of Jesus Christ allowed all but one of His Apostles be killed for their faith in Jesus Christ as testimony to truthfulness of their accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. That testimony already is sealed. No sacrifice today can add to it, none can take away from it. In their decisions to pay the ultimate price for their beliefs, all 12 of Jesus’ Apostles (with Paul substitute for Judas Iscariot) attest to authenticity of accounts of person, way of life, and teachings of Jesus Christ. Amen.